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The Top Ten contemporary sculptures

[19/08/2016]

It’s Top Ten Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice ranks the most important pieces ever sold at auction. This week the ranking focuses on the most desirable contemporary sculptures of the last 12 months.

The Top Ten contemporary sculptures
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Maurizio CATTELAN (1960) $17,189,000 Him (2001) 2016-05-08 Christie’s New York
2 Jeff KOONS (1955) $15,285,000 One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series) (1985) 2016-05-08 Christie’s New York
3 Jeff KOONS (1955) $14,725,000 Balloon Swan (Yellow) (2004-2011) 2015-11-10 Christie’s New York
4 Felix GONZALEZ-TORRES (1957-1996) $7,669,000 Untitled (L.A.) (1991) 2015-11-10 Christie’s New York
5 Jeff KOONS (1955) $7,445,000 Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet) (1994-2009) 2016-05-10 Christie’s New York
6 Jeff KOONS (1955) $6,885,000 Lobster (2007-2012) 2016-05-10 Christie’s New York
7 Jeff KOONS (1955) $5,765,000 Naked (1988) 2016-05-08 Phillips New York
8 Richard PRINCE (1949) $2,741,000 Anyone Can Find Me (1989-1990) 2016-05-08 Christie’s New York
9 AI Weiwei (1957) $2,517,000 Map of China (2009) 2016-05-11 Christie’s New York
10 Robert GOBER (1954) $2,285,000 Untitled 2016-05-08 Christie’s New York
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Jeff Koons, the most expensive living artist in the world

Jeff Koons continues his reign as the most desirable artist of our time, especially in the field of sculpture. Since records began in the contemporary art market 10 years ago, only Jeff Koons has managed to beat American art legend Jean-Michel Basquiat in the annual contemporary art rankings. With one exception (the sale of a Peter Doig painting in 2009), the annual contemporary art records (artists born after 1945) are held by Koons or Basquiat, year after year. A sculpture by Koons even beats Basquiat’s best sale, holding the world record title for contemporary art, a sculpture sold for $ 58.4 m on 13 November 2013 at Christie’s in New York: a hugeBalloon Dog (orange) three metres high. The sale of this Balloon Dog that year generated a sales price roughly equivalent to that of a whole year’s turnover at an auctions in Japan.

Hyper-publicized, adored by many, emblematic of the excesses of the market for others, Jeff Koons has hung on to his star status in these uncertain times where the momentum of the high-end has undeniably slowed. Looking at the results of the last twelve months, Koons is still top of the contemporary market with his purposefully kitsch three-dimensional artworks. He absolutely dominates the Top 10, in particular with two works that each sold for over $ 10m. His prices are certainly currently less spectacular than the incredible sums we know he can fetch, but his name nevertheless allowed a sculpture to sell for $ 14.7 m in November 2015, when the contemporary art market was severely declining elsewhere (Balloon Swan (Yellow), at Christie’s in New York). Six months later, a sculpture-installation from the Equilibrium series (1985) incredibly sold for $ 15.2 m, double the price generated in 2014 for works from the same series. Between summer 2015 and summer 2016, the sale of 116 works by Koons generated more than $ 58.5 m at auction: higher than the annual turnover of contemporary art in France but it’s also more or less what the artist is able to earn with a single blow of the hammer… as he proved three years ago.

Maurizio Cattelan trumps Jeff Koons

This year’s contemporary sculpture record is held by Maurizio Cattelan, whose works have also been highly influential. This record price was $ 17.1 m for Him, a subversive work depicting Hitler, the size of a seven year old boy, kneeling in prayer. Cattelan’s previous record was $ 7.9 m, for an installation of a self-portrait of the artist’s head peering from a hole in the floor (Untitled, Sotheby’s, New York, 12 May 2010). This recent sale saw the artist’s best price jump nearly $ 10m, beating Damien Hirst in terms of annual turnover. Cattelan may have voluntarily put his artistic career on ice, but he’s far from finished in the inner circle of art collectors. On the contrary, stopping production has created an effect of scarcity, so attracting buyers even more.

This Top Ten shows that some contemporary sculpture is now as valuable as the great historical works. Aside from works by Koons and Cattelan, few sculptures these days can reach 10 million dollars, unless they are by some of the biggest names in modern art, like those by Alberto Giacometti, Paul Gauguin or Joan  Miro.

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