Sculpture: top 10 auction results



Every fortnight Artprice provides you with a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The theme of today’s TOP article is the Top 10 auction results recorded in sculpture.

The Sculpture market is looking more buoyant than ever before! Today, bronze sculptures (‘multiples’ by definition) are selling more than paintings by Pablo Picasso. Since the beginning of this year, no less than 4 new world records have been set, of which 3 for works by Alberto GIACOMETTI.
At the top of the ranking, his famous man-size bronze L’homme qui marche I , which fetched $92.5m last February and tripled the 2009 auction record of $33.3m for Constantin BRANCUSI’s Madame L.R..
Indeed, the latter work, a wood sculpture from the Y. Saint Laurent & P. Bergé collection, is now in fourth place.

Total value of the top 10: $362.2m
The top 10’s combined value is today more than 360 m$ and it contains nothing below the $20m line.
One of the best new entries to the ranking is Amedeo MODIGLIANI’s Tête which fetched $46.6m in June 2010 at Christie’s Paris. This result, taking 3rd place on the revenue podium, was substantially more than 10 times his previous record of $3.5m in the sculpture segment. It was also his best result in any artistic medium… far better than the $28m fetched by his oil painting Jeanne Hébuterne, devant une porte at Sotheby’s New York in November 2004.
Beaten by Giacometti and Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi – the former no. 1 in this segment – is now in 4th position with the $33.3m his Madame L.R. generated at Christie’s Paris last year. In the top-10 since 2005, Brancusi’s Oiseau dans l’espace, which fetched $24.5m (double its high estimate) at Christie’s New York, is in 6th position.
Less known for his sculptures, Pablo PICASSO is nevertheless near the top in all mediums. The world’s most expensive painter also has a bronze in 5th position of the sculpture ranking: his Tête de femme, Dora Maar fetched $26m at Sotheby’s New York in 2007.
In 9th position, Jeff KOONSBalloon Flower (Magenta) is the only contemporary artwork in the ranking.
The absolute record of $22.9m it generated in 2008 is also the best-ever result for a work of contemporary art.
David SMITH is in 10th place with his monumental Cubi XXVII sculpture which sold for $21.2m (Sotheby’s New York, November 2005). The American artist, whose career was cut short in 1695, managed to carve a place alongside the major names in the sculpture market: in 2nd place in 2005, he was not far behind Brancusi.

Top 10 auction results for sculpture

Giacometti: $187.5m for four sculptures
After L’homme qui marche I fetched the astonishing record of $92.5m at Sotheby’s London sales last February, Alberto Giacometti’s artistic eminence was twice confirmed at the prestigious May sales orchestrated by Christie’s New York. He now holds the no.2 position in the ranking for his La Grande tête mince which fetched $47.5m as well as the 8th position after his La Main generated $23m.
Present in the top 10 since 2008, the Swiss artist also holds 7th place for his famous 3-meter high sculpture Grande femme debout II which sold for $24.5m at Christie’s New York.
With four places in the top-10 sculpture results, including first place, Alberto Giacometti’s price index has posted a truly spectacular increase. In fact, his overall price index (all segments) has risen 429% in less than five years!

More generally, the art market’s recent predilection for sculpture is very clear indeed: sculpture prices have risen 14% over the last 12 months compared to an 8% increase for paintings.