The Austrian Top 10


It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. Let’s focus this week on the Top 10 results obtained in Austria in 2017, which is ranked eighth in the world.

Less in the spotlight than Paris, London, New York or Hong Kong, the Viennese marketplace is nevertheless among the most dynamic in the art auction world. More than $100 million worth of works are sold each year in Austria, which ranks as the eighth largest market in the world and remains one of the mainstays of the European art market. Austrian performances are ahead of Japan, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands thanks to Vienna’s busy auction rooms such as Dorotheum, Kinsky and Hassfurther, which regularly offer high quality works. Although the market is naturally well stocked with works by major Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele (27% of Schiele’s works are sold in Austria), Oskar Kokoschka (17%) or Arnulf Rainer (44%), it is also truly international, with works by Nicolas de Staël and Joseph Albers, both of whom rank among the highest sales results.

This year, three new world records set by Austrian artists illustrate the vitality of the domestic market. Koloman Moser’s beautiful Irises set a record price of $537,000; Rudolf Wacker also sold for over $500,000 for the first time, and finally Max Weiler whose work Baum sold for $391,000.

Rank Artist Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Carl Theodor & Franz VON PILOTY & ADAM (XIX) 1 673 056$ Empress Elisabeth of Austria as bride on horseback in Possenhofen 27/04/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
2 Emilio VEDOVA (1919-2006) 889 025$ Tensione, N 4 V 31/05/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
3 APOLLONIO DI GIOVANNI (1415/17-1465) 737 626$ The Battle of Pharsalus 25/04/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
4 Koloman MOSER (1868-1918) 671 340$ Schwertlilien 20/06/2017 Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH, Vienne
5 Rudolf WACKER (1893-1939) 618 641$ Der Maler, Selbstbildnis mit Palette 29/05/2017 Hassfurther, Vienne
6 Egon SCHIELE (1890-1918) 587 423$ Grüner Zaun (Schmiedehof, Klosterneuburg) 20/06/2017 Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH, Vienne
7 Josef ALBERS (1888-1976) 578 174$ Study for Homage to the Square: Earthen I 31/05/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
8 Max WEILER (1910-2001) 489 519$ Baum 21/06/2017 Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH, Vienne
9 Pieter II BRUEGHEL (c.1564-1637/38) 457 240$ The Bird Trap 25/04/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
10 Nicolas DE STAËL (1914-1955) 455 001$ Composition 31/05/2017 Dorotheum, Vienne
copyright © 2017

Italy in Vienna

Two major Italian works far apart in time have indeed reached very high prices. First, Apollonio di Giovanni, Italian miniaturist born in Florence in 1414 where he died in 1465, whose work is inspired by the work of Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi and Paolo Uccello. This major artist of the 15th century Florentine school is of course rare at auction, especially in Austria. However, last April, Dorotheum had the opportunity to sell an exceptional work by the artist, The Battle of Pharsalus, a large tempera painting on gold background. 157 centimetres long, the work belonged to the Parisian collections of Eugène Piot and Emile Gavet before emerging in New York (as part of Edward Julius Berwind’s collection then being purchased by the Acquavella gallery) before finally coming back to Europe. Selling for more than $737,000, this incredible battle that is reminiscent of Paolo Ucello’s style is the third best-selling work by the artist worldwide, following two sales in Italy and the United States.

Born 500 years later, Emilio Vedova, painter and abstract engraver, is the second Italian artist in this Top 10. His work is housed in a dedicated private museum in Venice, which opened in 2009 next to the Pinault collection at the Pointe de la Douane. Vedova is a very sought-after artist in Europe and the United States, even though his prices have fallen since 2008. Like Apollonio di Giovanni, Dorotheum set the third best sale for Vedova, following two previous records set at Christie’s in Italy, his main market.

“Sisi” sets the auction rooms alight

The most remarkable auction of the year is due to the subject more than the artist: Elisabeth of Wittelsbach known as “Sisi,” one of the most fascinating historical figures of the 19th century, whose life was brought to the screen by Romy Schneider. The work in question is a mid-19th century painting by Carl Theodor Von Piloty & Franz Adam. It represents the future Empress Elisabeth of Austria riding a horse. Aged 15, Elisabeth is then a duchess in Bavaria and had not yet married her cousin Emperor Franz Joseph I. The work dated 1853 represents a key moment, a few months before her wedding, where the fate of Sisi was sealed. It was the subject and this particular moment in her life that sent the price through the roof, with an all-time record of $1.67 million, despite an estimate of around $400,000.