2017 in numbers… part 2


During the month of December, Artprice looks back at some of the art market’s key figures in 2017. This week we focus on May and June which saw particularly dense activity on the high-end market and lots of new records.

$57.36 million: new record for Constantin Brancusi

On 15 May 2017, Constantin BRANCUSI’s superb golden bronze statue, The Sleeping Muse (La muse endormie), demolished its $20 – 30 million estimate by setting a new auction record at $57.36 million after a bidding battle of nearly ten minutes (Christie’s New York). This emblematic sculpture, valued just $6.6 million 20 years earlier, was created in 1909 in a marble version from which Brancusi made a plaster mold and a limited edition of just six bronzes. The work presented on May 15 was the sixth and last bronze known from this short series.

$110.5 million: new record for Jean-Michel Basquiat

On 18 May, the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa caused a major sensation by buying a Jean-Michel BASQUIAT painting above the $100 million threshold for the first time: Untitled (1982) fetched $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York. The painting was purchased for $19,000 in 1984 and therefore multiplied in value by 5,800 times in 33 years, setting a new auction record for the Bronx-born graffiti artist. Basquiat is now one the elite group of artists whose works have fetched above $100 million at auction.

$5.5 million: new record for Jean-Paul Riopelle

On 24 May 2017, abstract artist Jean-Paul RIOPELLE’s large canvas Vent du nord set a new auction record at $5.5 million at Toronto’s Heffel Fine Art. Adding three million dollars to his previous record in 2012 at Christie’s Paris, Vent du Nord is now the second most valued artwork by a Canadian artist at auction after Ontario artist Lawren Harris’s Mountain Forms, which fetched $8.3 million in November 2016 (also at Heffel).

$214,000: new record for Robert Combas

The new auction record for a painting by the French artist Robert COMBAS is now $214,000; however, it was not hammered in France – which accounts for over 80% of his auction turnover – but rather in Taiwan, at Ravenel International, on 3 June 2017. The sale of Le Roi Soleil (1987) in Taiwan suggests that the iconic artist of Figuration Libre is beginning to elicit demand in Asia.

$6.8 million: new record for Pierre Soulages

On 6 June 2017, Sotheby’s paris set a new auction record for France’s most famous Abstract artist Pierre SOULAGES with a painting entitled Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 14 avril 1962. Ten bidders chased this large black and blue canvas up to $6.88 million. The painting had failed to sell last year at Phillips in London (9 February 2016) and sold for less than $340,000 in 1990 (6 December 1990 at Sotheby’s in London).

$42.26 million: new record for Wassily Kandinsky

Sotheby’s prestige sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on 21 June established a new record for the ‘father of abstraction’, Wassily KANDINSKY. Bild mit weissen linien (Painting with white lines), guaranteed for $35 million, finally fetched over $42.26 million. The new record was hammered just minutes after one of his Fauvist-influenced paintings entitled Murnaü. Paysage avec maison verte sold for more than $26.8 million, a new record that didn’t last long! With four paintings and five drawings sold in June, Wassily Kandinsky’s auction turnover amounted to $75 million in just one month, outperforming Pablo Picasso.

Unsold rate of 29%

The unsold rate for all 86 auction sales held in England in June 2017 was 29%. The combined unsold rate for the prestige evening sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Bonhams, was below 10%.

H1 2017 posts global art auction turnover up 5.3%

The higher turnover in H1 2107 compared with the year-earlier period suggests a recovery is taking hold on the major marketplaces, with the US market posting turnover growth of 28% by end-June.