press enter to search

The art auction boom in figures

Jean-Philippe Chognot

Agence France-Presse

Paris, France  /  Mon, June 17, 2019  /  10:09 pm
The art auction boom in figures

Christie's employees pose in front of a painting entitled 'Salvator Mundi' by Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci at a photocall at Christie's auction house in central London ahead of its sale at Christie's New York on November 15, 2017. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" smashed the world record for the most expensive artwork sold at auction, more than doubling the previous record set by Picasso's "The Women of Algiers (Version O)".

Here are key figures on the booming art auction scene.

$450.3 million

"Salvator Mundi" (Saviour of the World), which sold for $450.3 million (400 million euros) at Christie's in New York in November 2017, was officially acquired for the Louvre Abu Dhabi but has not seen in public since its auction.

The Wall Street Journal reported later that the painting may have been bought on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

32

Thirty-two of Pablo Picasso's works have gone under the hammer for more than $30 million, with 14 fetching more than $50 million and four more than $100 million. 

No other artist has fared better.

"The Women of Algiers (Version O)" has sold for more than $30 million twice, the first time in 1997 when it fetched $31.9 million. 

It went for $179.4 million, more than five times as much, in 2015 when it set the previous record for the priciest work sold at auction.

Two of Picasso's other works also set previous auction records: "Boy with a Pipe", which sold for $104.2 million in 2004; and "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur" (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust), which took $106.4 million in 2010. 

Six other artists, all contemporary or modern, have passed the $30 million mark with more than 10 works: Andy Warhol ( 27 ), Francis Bacon ( 23 ), Mark Rothko ( 21 ), Claude Monet ( 20 ), Amedeo Modigliani ( 12 ) and Vincent van Gogh ( 12 ).

Of the Old Masters, Leonardo has passed the $30 million threshold at auction only once, as have Raphael, Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Read also: World's most costly painting on Saudi prince's yacht: Report

2015

Mega-auctions at which artworks go for tens of millions of dollars have become more frequent since 2006. 

Over the past five years, an average of 30 works per year have gone for more than $30 million.

2015 was a record year with 36 works passing this threshold, including Picasso's "The Women of Algiers (Version O)", Modigliani's "Nu couche" ($170.4 million) and Alberto Giacometti's sculpture "Man Pointing" ($141.3 million).

So far this year, 14 works have already sold for more than $30 million, including "Rabbit" by Jeff Koons which in May went for $91.1 million at Christie's in New York, setting a record for a living artist.

A painting from Monet's celebrated "Meules" (Haystacks) series drew $110.7 million in May, a record auction for the French Impressionist master.

Two

Only two works by women artists have gone under the hammer for more than $30 million, or less than one percent of the 311 works which have passed this threshold.

"Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1" by American Georgia O'Keeffe sold for $44.4 million in November 2014, and a giant steel spider by Franco-American sculptress Louise Bourgeois fetched $32.1 million last month.

90 percent

New York and London hold more than 90 percent of the world's mega-auctions.

Of the 311 works which have sold for more than $30 million, 217 went under the hammer in New York and 67 in the British capital, mainly by auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's.

In Southeast Asia, 23 such sales were shared between China and Hong Kong, while four works were sold in Paris.