The bi-annual Top 10


Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, the best 2017 auctions show the major role played by the high-end market, with 10 works sold for over $44 million in six months.

Six of the Top 10 auctions of the year took place in New York, where the concentration of the high-end market allows the world’s greatest collectors to compete in one place. It is in New York that a Chinese master such as Chen Rong obtained his absolute record this year, as well as Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose painting Untitled(1982) was sold for $110.5m, not to an American, but to a major Japanese collector, Yusaku Maezawa.

Unsurprisingly, the multi-million dollar price range of this ranking (whose $44.4 million entry ‘fee’ was for Picasso’s Writing Woman) highlights the power of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the two market leaders, leaving just one place in the ranking to the China Guardian sales company, based in Beijing. But another sale, that of a Chinese artist but in New York this time, illustrates a profound shift: the high-end Chinese art market is no longer the exclusive prerogative of auction houses operating in China.


Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) 110 487 500 Untitled 18/05/2017 Sotheby’s New York
2 Gustav KLIMT (1862-1918) 59 004 638 Bauerngarten 01/03/2017 Sotheby’s Londres
3 Constantin BRANCUSI (1876-1957) 57 367 500 La muse endormie 15/05/2017 Christie’s New York
4 Cy TWOMBLY (1928-2011) 52 887 500 Leda and the Swan 17/05/2017 Christie’s New York
5 Francis BACON (1909-1992) 51 767 500 Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer 17/05/2017 Christie’s New York
6 HUANG Binhong (1865-1955) 50 577 000 Yellow mountain 19/06/2017 China Guardian Beijing
7 CHEN Rong (1189-1258) 48 967 500 Six Dragons 15/03/2017 Christie’s New York
8 Max BECKMANN (1884-1950) 45 830 765 Hölle der Vögel 27/06/2017 Christie’s Londres
9 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 45 047 500 Femme assise, robe bleue 15/05/2017 Christie’s New York
10 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 44 405 117 Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) 27/06/2017 Christie’s Londres
copyright © 2017


Will Chinese Masters soon be sold outside China?

China Guardian stands out from its Chinese competitors by attaining the highest sale in the local Fine Art market, with $50m for Yellow mountain by Huang Binhong. A major artist celebrated throughout China, Huang Binhong is a landscape ink master with a strong demand in mainland China and Hong Kong. The passion of collectors for his work has literally made the artist’s rating skyrocket, raising his price index by 803% since 2000. While the core of Huang Binhong’s market is primarily in China (accounting for more than 98% of his sales), some significant sales have taken place in New York over the past five years, where Christie’s and Sotheby’s organise twice a year (March and September) a major sales week entirely devoted to Asian art.

The big two (Sotherby’s and Christie’s) of the auction market thus expand their portfolio with artists normally reserved for Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, while accelerating the transactions between China and the United States. This “Asian strategy” brought great success to Christie’s last March, when it sold Six Dragons by Chen Rong for nearly $49m against an initial estimate of between $1.2 and $1.8 million… With this enormous hammer price, not only does Christie’s record the most expensive Chinese work sold outside China, but the company also set a new record for this major artist of the 13th century, proving that the New York market is just as attractive as Chinese auction houses where Chinese masterpieces are concerned. The Six Dragons by Chen Rong had indeed all the ingredients of a masterpiece: this very rare work is among the dozen works with dragons that have clearly been authenticated as original works by the artist. The sale of this work, coupled with other excellent results, enabled Christie’s to achieve a record figure during its “Asian week” ($332.8m), creating a real momentum for the next auction to be held from September 12th-15th, 2017, at Rockefeller Plaza.

Chen Rong is the only Old Master in the ranking, in a market dominated by Western and contemporary artists whose prices keep rising, like the Bauerngarten by Gustav Klimt sold at $59m this year, compared to $5.3m in 1994, or Hölle der Vögel, the masterpiece by Max Beckmann, which created a new record for the artist at $45.8m, compared to a previous record set at $22.5m in 2001.