The Top modern prints of 2015



Fridays are the Best! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you a themed auction ranking. The ranking this week reveals the 10 most valuable modern prints during this year’s auctions.

The Top modern prints of 2015
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Pablo PICASSO $4,645,000 La femme qui pleure, I (1937) 2015-05-14 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
2 Henri MATISSE $1,090,000 Jazz (Portfolio of 20) 2015-11-06 Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY
3 Pablo PICASSO $910,000 La Femme au Tambourin (1939) 2015-11-05 Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY
4 Pablo PICASSO $465,176 Buste de Femme au Chapeau (1962) 2015-03-18 Christie’s LONDRES
5 Henri MATISSE $425,000 Jazz 2015-10-28 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
6 Edvard MUNCH $412,592 Melancholie III (1902) 2015-06-19 Galerie Kornfeld Auktionen AG BERNE BE
7 Erich HECKEL $348,843 Fränzi liegend (1910) 2015-05-12 Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH VIENNE
8 Edvard MUNCH $335,831 The Girls On the Bridge (1918) 2015-09-29 Sotheby’s LONDRES
9 Edvard MUNCH $328,269 Vampire II (vampyr II) (1895-1902) 2015-06-04 Bukowskis STOCKHOLM
10 Henri DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC $287,684 La Clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O) (1886) 2015-03-18 Christie’s LONDRES
copyright © 2015


Three from Pablo Picasso

Picasso created more than 2,000 prints, which today make up more than 58% of his works sold at auction in density, and 5.6% in terms of revenue.

No, Le Repas frugal (The Frugal Repast) from 1904, Picasso’s most popular engraving, is no longer his most valuable print. That prize goes to La femme qui pleure (The Weeping Woman, 1937), responsible for the three best auction sales for the modern master in the “print” category. This famous work came from an oil on canvas bearing the same name, for which Picasso depicted his muse and companion at the time, Dora Maar, the face painfully deformed and the eyes filled with tears. Created in 1937, after German air raids on Guernica, La femme qui pleure is the metaphor for the extreme suffering of these women who had just lost a husband or a son. The 11/15 work sold for USD 4.6m including fees at Christie’s New York on 14 May 2015, but it can surpass USD 5m at auction. Such was the case in February 2014 at Sotheby’s, in London.
However, the work titled La Femme au Tambourin (Woman with Tambourine, 1939) indeed sold for a record sum of USD 910,000, or more than USD 100,000 above its upper estimate. To date, the best proofs of this etching oscillate between USD 600,000 and 700,000. A woman with a tambourine is a recurring theme in Picasso’s work since the 1920s, but it’s also a theme we find in the work of his friend Henri Matisse, such as in a lithograph from 1926 of which there are 40 known copies. Odalisque au tambourin (Odalisque with a Tambourine) by Matisse was valued at less than USD 3,400 in 2003.


Three from Edvard Munch

Etching is essential to the work of Munch that we can find on the auction market: more than 90% of his lots sold are etchings, which account for more than 26% of the market in terms of turnover. Munch practiced wood etching from 1896 onward, often retouching his prints with watercolours, ink or pencil. Thus, a work that was technically a multiple became a true original in the hands of the artist. His all-time record was set by Young Woman on the Beach, an aquatint and drypoint from 1896, which exploded an estimate of USD 1m, to sell for USD 3.2m in 2013. At this level of popularity, the price for the best etchings by Munch surpass those of Picasso…
For lack of breaking records this year, the Munch prints sold in Bern, Vienna and Stockholm recall the vitality of a local market facing the American demand that sells only 11% of his works put up for auction. Throughout the European marketplace the offering is the most dense, especially in Norway, his native country (nearly 43% of work sold).


Two from Henri Matisse

Prints make up the heart of the work by Matisse at auction: 79% of lots sold, for 4.4% of global turnover for the artist at auction. Like Munch and Picasso, Matisse can surpass USD 1m in this domain, but it is rare. However, that is exactly what happened on 6 November 2015 with the Jazz portfolio. Composed of 20 stencils, Jazz reached its record price this year, without being an all-time record for Matisse in prints. This set of 20 stencil prints makes up an illustrated book produced between 1943 and 1947. There are 250 copies Arches vellum paper.
Jazz is the most important book by Matisse, the only for which he is both author and artist. This work undeniably has a solid value, the price of which varies according to its preservation, origin and the health of the high-end market: as it happens, a portfolio was sold for half the price in October 2014 in New York.
Another copy of Jazz will be put up for auction on 24 February 2016 at Christie’s in London. This one comes from the collection of singer Sting (Sting and Trudie Styler collection), its “star” origins likely to result in an estimate ranging from USD 380,000–532,000.


One from Toulouse-Lautrec

A remarkable lithographer, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created at least 369 lithographs (including 31 posters), an even greater number than his drawings. This work accounts for nearly 86% of his lots sold and 18% of his turnover at auction. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the greats in modern lithography, for which he even invented a technique close to Pollock’s Dripping technique, by scraping a toothbrush full of ink or paint with a knife.
His best auction sale of the year was swept away, not surprisingly, by La Clownesse assise (The Seated Clown, 1886), his most popular page from the portfolio Elles (10 works). La Clownesse assise depicts Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O, a dancer and clown in Parisian shows, during the Nouveau Cirque and at Moulin Rouge. This stage name – Cha-U-Ka-o – is the phonetic transcription of the French words “chahut” and “chaos”, allowing one to surmise the atmosphere created by this person in their shows. Concerning these very popular pages, we note that some posters signed by Toulouse-Lautrec, with more than 250 copies printed, can be had for a few hundred dollars in the auction market.