Top 10 artists



Each artist makes their own, large or small, contribution to the total market. And ranking them by auction turnover gives a good indication of market conditions, preferences and trends. Every year Artprice ranks artists by this criterion. Modern and contemporary artists obviously have more works on the market than the old masters, many of whom have dropped down our rankings because of thin sales volumes. Now, some modern artists are starting to suffer from the same effect, as their works tend to come up less often at auction, unless this is offset by a rise in price.
Some names, though, seem to be permanent fixtures: the modernists Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall head the list every year. Artists once classed as contemporary rise in the rankings and start to be seen as classics. Warhol and Lichtenstein, for instance, are increasingly looking like sure bets from the late 20th century.
In contrast, as their market dwindles, leading impressionists, such as Monet and Renoir, have tended to lose ground to the big names of modern art.
And, this year, the price of entry to the Top 10 is particularly steep: turnover of at least USD 59m compared to USD 33m last year. With such a boom in prices, the combined turnover of the Top 10 grossing artists in 2006, was USD 1,261m (19.4% of the market, spent on fewer than 5,000 lots). Even in 2004, another boom year, sales of the Top 10 artists only managed USD 576m.

1- Pablo PICASSO: $ 339,245,929

It is now 10 years that Pablo Picasso has been the market’s leading artist, not just for the number of lots coming up for auction each year, but also for the number of record prices paid for his work. Whatever the medium, Picasso tops the rankings for record sales: USD 93m in May 2004, for Garçon à la Pipe, a rare canvas from his pink period, USD 12.25m in November 2005 for Nu Jaune, a mixed technique work on paper from 1907, and in 2004, Le Repas frugal, a 1904 etching knocked down for GBP 550,000. In 2006, the market leader saw his turnover rise by 112%. His position was boosted by 35 million-plus sales in 12 months. The high point of these came last May, when a 1941 portrait of his muse, Dora Maar, went under the hammer at Sotheby’s for USD 85m, in the course of their prestigious Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale. Exactly two years after the record sale of Garçon à la Pipe, this canvas became the second-most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. This multiplication of record sales for the master of the modern art movement reflects a general rise in Picasso’s prices. Since 1997, his index has doubled. In light of this strong demand, more and more pieces are being put up for auction: the number of lots rose by 20% in 2005 and by another 18% in 2006. Pablo Picasso’s dominance would have been still more marked if the Portrait de Angel Fernández de Soto, a piece painted in 1903, at the height of his blue period, sold for USD 26.5m in 1995 and estimated at USD 40-60m this year, had not been withdrawn from the auction at the last minute. A blue period Picasso could expect to fetch close to USD 60m. The Fernández de Soto portrait had been bought at Sotheby’s New York in 1995 for USD 26.5m, by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But it had to be pulled from the sale at the last minute when Julius H Schoeps claimed that the Nazis had looted it from his great-uncle, Paul von Mendhelsshohn- Bartholdy.

2 – Andy WARHOL : $ 199,392,442

By claiming the number two spot for the third year running, Andy Warhol has confirmed his status as the unquestioned star of the New York “contemporary art” sales. Also, no fewer than 43 of his works sold for more than a million dollars in 2006, eight more than Picasso. This helped boost his turnover by a massive 118% in 2006. The pope of pop thus continues his uninterrupted ascent into the pantheon of the most expensive artists in the world. His output increased in value by 36% in 2006 and has now grown by 382% in ten years. Given this inflation and rising demand a host of collectors are being tempted to sell. No fewer than 788 lots were knocked down in 2006, compared to 560 in 2002. His trademark canvases now go for more than USD 10m. Liz, a metre square portrait of Elizabeth Taylor from a series of 13 made in 1963, fetched USD 11.25m on 10 May 2006. In November, another three works went for more than USD 10m: Orange Marilyn (USD 14.5m), Sixteen Jackies (USD 14m) and Mao (USD 15.5m). Excluding fees, the record for an Andy Warhol piece belongs to the 1998 sale of Orange Marilyn for USD 15,750,000.

3 – Gustav KLIMT :$ 175,143,589

Usually, Some 50 drawings and watercolours by Gustav Klimt are sold at auction every year, representing 85% of the lots sold for this artist. Collectors generally pay USD 15,000-30,000 for a good quality piece. But only two or three paintings come up a year, and as a result Klimt has only once made it into the Top 10 before, in 1997, when his Schloss Kammer am Attersee II from 1909 sold for GBP 13.2m on 9 October at Sotheby’s London. But last year was unusual. Four major Klimt paintings were offered for auction at Christie’s on 8 November, and drew in USD 192m, including the highest bid of USD 78.5m (USD 87.9m including fees) for Portrait d’Adele Bloch-Bauer III. These paintings, looted by the Nazis from the Bloch-Bauer family, had recently been restored to the heir of their rightful owners by the Austrian government. A fifth painting, Portrait d’Adele Bloch-Bauer II, was sold in June for USD 135m in a private transaction. Boosted by these exceptional results Gustav Klimt’s index climbed by 46% in 2006.

4 – Willem DE KOONING :$ 107,373,446

Artists from the New York school such as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell are enjoying a surge of popularity. No surprise then, that the number one abstract impressionist should have made it into the Top 10. De Kooning set a new record on 15 November 2006, for Untitled XXVI, which fetched USD 24.2m at Christie’s New York, smashing his previous record, dating back to 1989, of USD 18 million for Interchange (1955). At its autumn sales, Christie’s sold no less than 12 de Kooning pieces, including some more accessible oils from the late fifties and sixties that could be picked up for between EUR 150,000 and 250,000 on 16 November in New York. Already on 10 May, Untitled XVII, a big 2 metre canvas from 1975 had been knocked down for USD 14m, double its estimate. Between January 2003 and July 2006, de Kooning’s price index gained 98.5%. Since 2003, it has risen by 170%. Mirroring this rise in value, Untitled XVIIII, a 1986 canvas bought in in 2004 on a low estimate of USD 1.5m, ultimately found a buyer in November 2006 for USD 3m.

5 – Amedeo MODIGLIANI : $ 90,713,845

A precocious talent, who died in 1920 before the age of 40, Amedeo Modigliani is nonetheless had massive success with his stretched portraits on neutral backgrounds and horizontal nudes. But his most sought-after works are still hard to find. Traditionally, the number of Modigliani transactions in a year is fairly low, 25-50 for all techniques. But in 2006, possibly prompted by a doubling in the artist’s index over the last 10 years, many collectors were rushing to put their classic pieces on the market. Three Modiglianis sold for more than USD 10m in 2006. The big auctions included one at Sotheby’s London where Marvin Schein sold Jeanne Hébuterne (with hat)I from 1919 for GBP 14.6m (USD 27m). He had bought the work nine years earlier for USD 8.7m. But this capital gain pales into insignificance compared to that earned by Le fils du conciergeI, a 1918 canvas bought for USD 5m on 14 May 1997 at Christie’s and resold in November 2006 by gallery owner Doris Amman for USD 27.75m, close to Modigliani’s 2004 record.

6 – Marc CHAGALL : $ 89,038,897

Thanks to impressive sale volumes (938 lots sold at auction), Marc Chagall remains in sixth place. His turnover has more than doubled, helped by some excellent results at the modern art sale on 16 June at Kornfeld (Berne) which was organised round 55 pieces directly from the collection of Ida Chagall, the artist’s daughter. Even a late work such as Le Songe I(1984), estimated at CHF 1,000,000 went for CHF 2,450,000 (around EUR 1.6m).

7 – Egon SCHIELE : $ 79,081,455

Although Schiele died at the age of 28, the Secession artist became an important figure in both art history and the art market. In the space of a few years, Schiele managed to create over 3,200 works of art. Drawings and watercolours account for almost 60% of Schiele’s works that are auctioned. Twenty per cent of them now fetch more than USD 400,000, and the artist’s index continues to rise (152% between 1997 and 2006). His paintings are much rarer. Fewer than 50 canvasses have come up for sale in 20 years.Schiele’s top sale in 2006 was a canvas painted on both sides from 1915, Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) – Monk I (fragment, verso)I, estimated at USD 20-30m, which went for its low estimate on 8 November. In June, the artist had already chalked up a record GBP 10.5m (USD 19.4m) sale for his HerbstsonneI at Christie’s London.

8 – Paul GAUGUIN : $ 62,312,914

Paul Gauguin is the only painter working in the 19th century to make it into the rankings. Neither Claude Monet, nor Auguste Renoir, who used to be fixtures in the top spots, appear. It is actually something of a surprise that Gauguin makes it at all, as he failed to have much impact in 2006. The year was a series of lacklustre sales. In January, in London, Deux femmes – La chevelure fleurieI only just reached its low estimate of USD 11m. L’homme à la hache, from his Tahitian period was expected to fetch USD 35-45m but only went for USD 36m at Christie’s spectacular auction on 8 November 2006. In May, Vase de fleurs et gourdeI, an 1886 work changed hands for USD 4m, despite being estimated at USD 7-10m.

9 – Henri MATISSE : $ 59,723,249

Sotheby’s sold a major nude by Henri Matisse for USD 16.5m, a record for the artist. This 92cm wide 1927 work had been estimated at USD 12-15m. His Jeune fille au anémones sur fond violetI, which went for EUR 4.6m at Christie’s Paris on 1 December was the year’s most expensive sale in France. His index rose by 65% in 2006 and this, coupled with a bought in ratio of 29%, pushed turnover for Matisse to near USD 60m for the year. But this is still well below previous scores for Picasso’s friend, notably in 2000 and 2001, when Matisse was the third biggest grossing artist on the market with sales of USD 55m and USD 78m.

10 – Roy LICHTENSTEIN : $ 59,670,946

Lichtenstein, the other star of US pop, was number 11 in 2005, but earns his place in the Top 10 this year thanks to a superb USD 14m sale for Sinking SunI (1964), just USD 500,000 below his all-time record for the 1963 canvas In the Car, which sold for USD 14.5m at Christie’s NY on 8 November 2005. His index was stable in 2006, but has gained 334% since 1998. Transaction volumes are on a constant rise: since 2002, the number of Lichtenstein pieces sold at auction has risen from 144 to 375. Despite this plentiful offer, demand has kept pace and 81% of lots find buyers. Riding the wave of this enthusiasm, Still life with LampI, a wide canvas from 1976, bought for USD 300,000 at Christie’s NY in 1996, sold for USD 2.7m in 2006 at Sotheby’s.