Pop Art is still popular!





Roy Lichtenstein & Andy Warhol ©thierry Ehrmann – Courtesy of Organ Museum / Abode of Chaos


Yes indeed… On 10 July last, Christie’s organized its first ever major ‘worldwide’ auction, baptised ONE. Thanks to streaming technology, ONE took place via 4 consecutive sessions in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York, and it grossed nearly $421 million in just four hours. Although none of the works sold above the $50 million threshold, the operation generated some remarkable results.

First and foremost among these was the excellent $46.2 million hammered at the sale’s final New York section for Roy LICHTENSTEIN’s (1923-1997) superb Nude with Joyous Painting (1994). After a long bidding battle, the work generated the sale’s top result, well above the work’s pre-sale estimate of around $30 million. This iconic work, painted at the end of his career and never previously auctioned, depicts a young blonde woman wearing nothing but a blue headband and lipstick. Ana Maria Celis, Head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, described the painting as “the most important example of the last major series of Lichtenstein nudes to ever appear at auction”. The $46.2 million dollar result represents the artist’s third best-ever auction result… still a long way behind the $95.3 million hammered for his unmistakable Nurse (1964) at Christie’s NY in 2015.

So… the top result at Christie’s ‘global’ sale once again bears witness to the enduring success of the great Pop artists – particularly the core American Pop artists – whose blue-chip values ensure very dynamic markets. No less than 26 works by Lichtenstein were offered for sale in mid-July, including 12 at Phillips NY on 23 July.

In June, Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I (1965) – the star lot in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York – fetched over $25 million, one of the top 10 global art auction results (along with Nude with Joyous Painting) during H1 2020

Artist Work Price Date Auctioneer
1 Francis BACON Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981) $84,550,000 $ 29/06/20 Sotheby’s New York NY
2 Roy LICHTENSTEIN Nude with Joyous Painting (1994) $46,242,500 10/07/20 Christie’s New York NY
3 SAN Yu Quatre nus (1950′) $33,333,223 08/07/20 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
4 David HOCKNEY The Splash (1966) $31,234,168 11/02/20 Sotheby’s London
5 Brice MARDEN Complements (2004-2007) $30,920,000 10/07/20 Christie’s New York NY
6 Pablo PICASSO Les femmes d’Alger (version ‘F’) (1955) $29,217,500 10/07/20 Christie’s New York NY
7 Clyfford STILL PH-144 (1947-Y-NO.1) (1947) $28,739,000 29/06/20 Sotheby’s New York NY
8 Roy LICHTENSTEIN White Brushstroke I (1965) $25,417,000 29/06/20 Sotheby’s New York NY
9 SAN Yu Chrysanthèmes blanches dans un pot bleu et blanc (1940-1950) $24,722,812 10/07/20 Christie’s Hong Kong
10 René MAGRITTE A la rencontre du plaisir (1962) $24,625,273 05/02/20 Christie’s London
Top 10 global art auction results (H1 2020) (© artprice.com)



With the two results in the above list, Roy Lichtenstein currently ranks as the 4th best-selling artist in the world since the start of 2020, even ahead of the Pop movement’s most successful artist, Andy WARHOL, who currently ranks 10th in the world for the same period.

However, Warhol’s market is far broader geographically than that of his friend Roy. In fact, to date, no work by Roy Lichtenstein has been sold on the Chinese auction market compared with 121 for Andy Warhol, including a result of nearly $2 million for his « Self-portrait with skeleton Arm and Madonna », after Edward Munch


indice warhol roy

Price indices of the two artists (all mediums) (copyright Artprice.com)



Warhol’s market has not been inactive: in May 2019 during Christie’s evening sale in New York, his famous Liz [Early Colored Liz] (1963) sold for $19.3 million, and his Double Elvis [Ferus Type] (1963) fetched $53 million… and a whole bunch of his works have been offered during July. But – for the time being – Lichtenstein is still ahead of Warhol so far this year. We will have to wait for second semester results to know if Roy maintains his lead over Andy for the full year.

Exhibitions of Pop Art:
Works by Andy Warhol are on view at the Tate Modern in London until 15 November 2020, while, next year, works by Roy Lichtenstein can be seen at the Mary Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida in an exhibition titled Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes Pop! (14 Feb – 27 June 2021).