Top 10 paintings signed by famous sculptors



Another Friday Top. Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, the ten most expensive paintings of 2015, created by famous sculptors, come under close scrutiny.

As the foremost medium in the history of art since the Renaissance, and the ruling medium on the market today, painting has naturally tempted more than one sculptor. Whether work carried out in parallel, sketches turned into paintings or just short-lived experiments, numerous two dimensional pieces have been produced by great sculptors (both classic and contemporary). Many of these come up for auction every year, and collectors go all out to acquire such gems that reveal another side of the work of a major artist.

Top 10 paintings signed by famous sculptors
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Alberto GIACOMETTI $20,885,000 James Lord (1964) 2015-11-09 Christie’s NEW YORK
2 Jeff KOONS $8,565,000 Triple Elvis (2009) 2015-05-13 Christie’s NEW YORK
3 Alberto GIACOMETTI $7,082,000 Pommes dans l’atelier (1950) 2015-05-05 Sotheby’s NEW YORK
4 Henry MOORE $3,415,071 Two Women and Child (1948) 2015-06-24 Sotheby’s LONDRES
5 Robert INDIANA $2,402,430 Love (1967) 2015-10-15 Sotheby’s LONDRES
6 Hans ARP $2,318,211 Balcon I (1925) 2015-02-04 Christie’s LONDRES
7 Jeff KOONS $1,445,000 Hand on Breast (1990) 2015-11-09 Christie’s NEW YORK
8 Jeff KOONS $965,000 Balloon Monkey Wall Relief (Blue) (2011) 2015-05-13 Christie’s NEW YORK
9 Damien HIRST $912,824 Althiazide (1992) 2015-03-10 Sotheby’s LONDRES
10 Jesús Rafael SOTO $880,000 Alon de Mai (1975) 2015-05-26 Sotheby’s NEW YORK
copyright © 2015


The most sensational sale of the year in this area was undoubtedly that of Alberto Giacometti’s portrait of James Lord (1964), which was bought for more than USD 20m during Christie’s prestigious session The artist’s muse on November 9, 2015. Giacometti is indisputably one of the greatest sculptors of all time, as made clear by the inclusion of his strange wiry characters in the most beautiful collections and most prestigious museums. At auction, his sculptures are quite simply unequalled, having attained bids exceeding USD 100m (even three times). Alberto Giacometti’s paintings, although not so well known, nonetheless form an extraordinarily powerful body of work, which has inspired one of the most prominent post-war painters, namely Francis Bacon. In 2013, another oil painting on canvas signed A. Giacometti, Diego in a Plaid Shirt (1954), had already brought the sculptor’s pictorial work to the market’s attention, having sold for USD 32.6m. Finally, on 5 May this year, a second canvas, Apples in the Workshop (1950), fetched more than USD 7m at Sotheby’s New York.

In second place comes Jeff Koons. It is hardly surprising that the best performing contemporary artist on the secondary market, known for being extraordinarily versatile and whose works are often deemed over-priced, should be included in this ranking. Although his work is still mainly centred around sculpture (with frequent use of stainless steel), three of his paintings created between 1990 and 2011 have achieved spectacular results at auction this year, with Triple Elvis (2009) taking the lead. This painting, measuring 1.6 m by 3.5 m, looks much like a photo-montage. In a particularly recognisable Pop style, featuring three charming semi-naked graces and an inflatable lobster that acts as the artist’s signature, the painting was acquired for USD 8.6m on 13 May 2015 at Christie’s New York. Two other paintings, representing iconic works by Jeff Koons transferred onto canvas, are also included in this ranking. In the context of this article, the work entitled Balloon Monkey Wall Relief (Blue) is especially interesting as it transposes one of the American artist’s most famous sculptures onto a two-dimensional surface.

In fourth place among this top ten comes a gouache on paper signed Henry Moore, the most famous modern English sculptor. Developing a theme that was dear to the artist, Two women and Child (1948) was estimated at between USD 470,000 and USD 630,000 by the experts at Sotheby’s, but the work was bought for more than five times the higher estimate on 24 June in London. Henry Moore clearly remains one of the most popular British artists and his works continue to change hands for incredibly high sums. His abstract bronze sculptures, Reclining figures, adorn many important sites in the world (including the Houses of Parliament in London, Unesco in Paris and the Lincoln Centre in New York). Such pieces have become almost impossible to find on the secondary market, which consequently is turning ever more seriously to the drawings, gouaches and even many lithographs made by sculptor.

Another artist whose works in aluminium also take pride of place in the most beautiful cities in the world (such as Philadelphia, Singapore, Madrid and Jerusalem), where they spread their message of love, has moved up into the top ten. The market sometimes seems to have forgotten that the pioneer of Pop Art, Robert Indiana, created as much in painting as he did in tapestry or screen printing. With Love (1967), in oil on canvas measuring 1.8 m by 1.8 m, being acquired for US 2.1m on October 15 at Sotheby’s London, the market for Indiana has proven not only to be in fine form, but also to be far from confined to the US and in no way disdaining the master’s pictorial work.

Hans Arp also is not exclusively a sculptor, but his works on canvas are relatively rare on the secondary market. They amount to only 3% of the lots sold over the last fifteen years while his sculpture, drawings and lithographs account for 35%, 14% and 47% of his sales at auction. Moreover, Balcon 1, which sold for USD 2.3m on 4 February, shows how the prices of works by Hans Arp have remained stable, since the work had been acquired for a quite similar bid (GBP 1.3m excluding fees) in February 2012. In general, the price index of this founder of the Dada movement has hardly changed in six years.

Finally, the last two places in the top ten are occupied by a second contemporary artist, Damien Hirst from the UK, and one of the most interesting South American artists of the post-war period, Jesús Rafael Soto. Both have become highly renowned for their iconic sculptural work, but throughout their careers they have also developed remarkable work on canvas which the market, quite rightly, does not look down upon.