Sotheby’s records



Every fortnight Artprice posts a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The focus of today’s TOP article is the 10 best auction results generated by Sotheby’s.

The Christie’s / Sotheby’s duopoly still reigns over the global ranking of auctioneers and still generates half of its revenue in New York. Of the 15 most expensive works of art in the world, ten were sold at Sotheby’s, of which, eight in New York. Although new global records have somewhat refloated the morale of Christie’s and Sotheby’s in 2010, only two of Sotheby’s 10 best results were recorded in 2010 (three in the case of Christie’s which generated its absolute record in 2010 when Pablo PICASSO’s Nude Green Leaves and Bust fetched $95m).

Top 10 : Best auction results at sotheby’s

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Pablo PICASSO $93 000 000 Garçon à la pipe 05/05/2004 (Sotheby’s NY)
2 Alberto GIACOMETTI $92 521 600 L’homme qui marche I 02/03/2010 (Sotheby’s London)
3 Pablo PICASSO $85 000 000 Dora Maar au chat 05/03/2006 (Sotheby’s NY)
4 Francis BACON $77 000 000 Triptych 05/14/2008 (Sotheby’s NY)
5 Pierre-Auguste RENOIR $71 000 000 Au Moulin de la Galette 05/17/1990 (Sotheby’s NY)
6 Peter Paul RUBENS $69 714 000 The Massacre of the Innocents 07/10/2002 (Sotheby’s London)
7 Mark ROTHKO $65 000 000 White Center 05/15/2007 (Sotheby’s NY)
8 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $61 500 000 Nu assis sur un divan 11/02/2010 (Sotheby’s NY)
9 Paul CÉZANNE $55 000 000 Rideau, cruchon et compotier 05/10/1999 sotheby’s NY
10 Kasimir Sevrinovitch MALEVICH $53 500 000 Suprematisch Composition 11/03/2008 (Sotheby’s NY)

The total value of Sotheby’s Top 10 results amounts to over 723 million dollars

On 5 May 2004, Sotheby’s wrote a new page in art market history by signing a new all-time global auction record for a work of art at $93m for Picasso’s Garçon à la pipe. Indeed, at the time, this major and extremely rare work from Picasso’s pink period and Whitney Collection provenance was already carrying an estimate of $70m.

On 3 February 2010, just six years later, a new global record was set at Sotheby’s prestige evening sale in London. L’Homme qui marche I, Alberto GIACOMETTI’s life-size bronze, sold for £58m ($92.5m) versus an estimate of £12m-£18m, thereby taking the new all-time global auction record for a work of art (in sterling). Giacometti beat Picasso’s record for Garçon à la Pipe (£51.8m).
This exceptional result allowed Sotheby’s to post its best ever score for a London sale (£146.8m including fees) and triggered an upswing of the 2010 art market after a year and a half of crisis.

On 3 May 2006, Pablo Picasso generated another Sotheby’s highpoint when a portrait of his muse, Dora Maar, fetched $85m under the hammer at Sotheby’s: Dora Maar au chat. This incredible result – which became the second most expensive painting in the world – confirmed the extraordinary appetite for works by the cubist master.

Already earmarked for a record result on 14 May 2008, Francis BACON’s Triptych surpassed Sotheby’s expectations when it sold for $77m to the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, making it the most expensive Post-War work ever sold at auction! Bacon overtook his contemporary Mark ROTHKO, who on 15 May 2007 signed his best-ever auction result with White Center (1950) at $65 m, today Sotheby’s 7th best result.

Only two artists from the 19th century are present in Sotheby’s Top 10: Renoir and Cézanne have been in Sotheby’s top-10 since the 1990s. In fact, on 17 May 1990, Pierre-Auguste RENOIR’s Au Moulin de la Galette fetched $71m at Sotheby’s. Also originating from Whitney collection this impressionist masterpiece was acquired by the Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito. A larger copy of the work hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris. Another painting with Whitney collection provenance – after belonging to the famous art dealer Ambroise Vollard – is Paul CÉZANNE’s still-life Rideau, cruchon et compotier which fetched the artist’s all-time personal auction record on 10 May 1999 at $55m, a record that has stood ever since.

At Sotheby’s Old Masters sale on 10 July 2002, Peter Paul RUBENSThe Massacre of the Innocents became the most expensive Old Master painting ever sold at auction when it fetched $69.7m (£45m). In fact the work had just been attributed to the great master, whereas before it was always assumed to be the work of Jan van den Hoecke.

Amedeo MODIGLIANI is in eighth place of this Sotheby’s ranking with his sensual Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) which set a personal record of $61.5m at Sotheby’s New York, on 2 November 2010, overtaking his previous record set by Tête ($46.65m) at Christie’s Paris on 14 June of the same year. In 1999, the same Nu sold for $15.25m at the same auctioneer.
Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) was also the second best-ever auction result generated on French soil behind Picasso’s Les noces de Pierrette which fetched €45.7m ($48.2m) at Binoche-Godeau in Paris in 1989.

Of the 10 works by Kasimir Sevrinovitch MALEVICH to be presented at auctions, it was one of his Suprematisch Composition (1919) that set the artist’s personal record at $53.5m on 3 November 2008 at Sotheby’s. Considering the rarity of the works of this quality on the market, the composition could have generated an even higher price had it not been presented in the midst of the economic crisis.