Top results so far in 2018


In today’s “Top” article from our fortnightly series of Art Market rankings, Artprice rounds up the world’s best Fine Art auction results since the beginning of 2018… results that bode well for the rest of the year.

Traditionally, the most important and prestigious Fine Art auction sales during the early months of each year are held in London and Hong Kong. Although New York is clearly the epicenter of the Western high-end art market, none of the results in this ranking were hammered in the Big Apple since its prestige sales are planned for May.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 68 702 214 Femme au bére et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérese Walter) 28/02/2018 Sotheby’s Londres
2 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 57 829 046 La Dormeuse 08/03/2018 Phillips Londres
3 Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) 31 414 491 Six Self Portraits 06/03/2018 Christie’s Londres
4 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 23 305 301 Et la terre était sans forme 29/03/2018 Poly Auction Hong Kong
5 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 22 780 091 Le matador 28/02/2018 Sotheby’s Londres
6 Henri MATISSE (1869-1954) 20 528 006 Nu allongé I (Aurore) 08/03/2018 Phillips Londres
7 Peter DOIG (1959) 19 958 612 The Architect’s Home In the Ravine 07/03/2018 Sotheby’s Londres
8 Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) 19 111 296 Mousquetaire et nu assis 27/02/2018 Christie’s Londres
9 QIAN Weicheng (1720-1772) 18 702 730 River Qingxi in Mists… 03/04/2018 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
10 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) 16 728 820 Multiflavors 06/03/2018 Christie’s Londres
copyright © 2018

Phillips joins the big guns

Thanks to the vitality of the Hong Kong market, this Top-10 best results for 2018 (so far) contains two Chinese artists, Qian Weicheng (1720-1772) and Zao Wou Ki, the latter fetching his second best-ever result at $23.3 million. The other eight concern Western artists who fetched superb results at London’s February and March sales. Usually overshadowed by the big numbers posted at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, it was refreshing to see that Phillips hamme two of these results. The first was the excellent $57.8 million on March 3 for Pablo PICASSO’s La dormeuse and the second was $20.5 million the same day for a painting by Matisse. The timing of the sale of Picasso’s La Dormeuse (a 1932 portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter) could not have been better as it coincided with the opening day of the Tate Modern’s important exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s creations during 1932 (Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame,Tragedy), considered his best period by a number of art experts. The sale also had another major attraction: Phillips offered La Dormeuse within a particularly attractive price range of $16-24 million. In the end, the estimate was dwarfed by the final result of $57.8 million, the best result ever obtained in the company’s entire history. In total, this triumphal sale (8 March 2018), combining Modern and Contemporary art, generated $135 million, also the best sales total ever recorded at Phillips. In short… Phillips, the world’s no. 5 auction house by Fine Art turnover in 2017 (with a total of $470.8 million) has proved its strength on the art market’s most sensitive and prestigious segment, that of multi-million dollar artworks.

Picasso… again and again

Picasso has two other results in this ranking. The first, Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter), fetched 68.7 million against an estimate of $50 million at Sotheby’s (on 28 February) despite its modest proportions of 46 x 55 cm. Once again, the price paid reflected the subject (Marie-Thérèse Walter, his muse and companion, is one of the artist’s most sought-after subjects) and the date of the work, 1937 (the year he completed Guernica, one of the most famous works in art history). In addition, the work had never been sold publicly and has impeccable provenance being from the artist’s estate. Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée generated Picasso’s fifth best-ever auction result and the strongest result in the first quarter of 2018.

Apart from Picasso and the Chinese artists, the ranking contains results for frequent high-rise signatures like Basquiat, Warhol, Matisse and Peter Doig, all above $15 million. The most impressive of these was hammered for Peter Doig’s now famous The Architect’s Home in the Ravine at its fifth auction appearance. The painting’s frequent sale has provided a stunning example of the price inflation that Doig’s work has enjoyed: initially acquired for less than $475,000 in 2002, it went on to be sold for $3.6 million in 2007, then $11.9 million in 2013, then $16.3 million in 2016 and finally $19.9 million on 7 March 2018. The dates show an acceleration of the resales (shorter holding periods) with each seller earning several million dollars. The painting’s auction history illustrates the investment talent of certain buyers, particularly the penultimate owner, who generated a capital gain of over three million dollars in just two years (2016-2018)…