Autumn/Winter Newsletter 2017
Autumn/Winter Newsletter 2017
By Dr. Tim Hunter, Vice President
The latter part of 2017 has certainly proved that the art market is as strong as ever for works of unparalleled rarity and quality, with Leonardo da Vinci’s highly-anticipated Salvator Mundi panel exceeding all expectations by achieving a scarcely-believable world record price of $450.3m. Now officially the most expensive painting ever sold, and dubbed “the most important discovery in the 21st Century”, the painting was the highlight of so-called “gigaweek” in New York which saw art sales achieve just over $2 billion, one of the highest totals ever seen during a single week of auctions. Given the extraordinary rarity of the Leonardo, perhaps one should not be completely surprised by the world record, however, to find the painting offered in a Contemporary Art sale, alongside Andy Warhol’s final silk-screen Sixty Last Suppers, made for an interesting blurring of categories, and is a testament to the ever-inventive nature of auction house marketing strategies.
Despite wider economic uncertainty and market volatility in 2017, the art market has witnessed a period of renewed growth – ending two consecutive years of slowdown. Total auction sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips were up 18% in the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2016*, with the strength of Asian bidding evident throughout the year. For example, having already spent US$98m on art at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s in spring 2016, Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire, cemented his reputation as a mega-collector by returning to snap up an “Untitled” Jean-Michel Basquiat painting from 1982 for $110.5m at Sotheby’s in May. Not only does this make the painting the most expensive work created after 1980, but also elevates Basquiat into a select group of only eight artists whose work has achieved over $100m at auction. He now sits alongside Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon, Modigliani, Munch, Warhol and, of course, Leonardo.
In the recent New York Sales, Asian buyers accounted for 40% of the value of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale, and almost 50% at the equivalent sale at Sotheby’s. There is also continued evidence of the demand from Asia for important decorative art, with a 1,000-year-old Chinese bowl from the Song Dynasty selling for a record-breaking US$38m in Hong Kong during the summer.
Meanwhile, despite an increasingly contemporary mindset across the industry, some impressive sales of older works were also made. Aside from the Leonardo, these included the £18.5m for Turner’s “Ehrenbreitstein” in July, which demonstrated the continued appetite for top quality Old Masters in a section of the market which is clearly alive and well. Early December sees the last of the major sales in this category take place in London, where demand is expected to be solid given a number of important paintings appearing on the market. Notable highlights include a newly-attributed landscape by John Constable at Sotheby’s (estimate £2-3m), and the El Greco at Christie’s (estimate £5-7m), which appears back on the market after twenty years in a private collection.
In the world of galleries and international fairs, remember that Art Basel arrives in Miami Beach from 7 – 10th December. A key event in the art world’s calendar, with over 200 of the world’s leading international Modern and contemporary galleries displaying artworks with over 4,000 artists.
*Source: ArtTactic Deloitte Art & Finance Report, 2017
Other Notable Highlights
In the recent New York auctions:
- Van Gogh, Laboureur dans un champs sold for $81.3m (just below the artist’s record from 1990 of $82.5m)
- Andy Warhol’s Sixty Last Suppers from 1986 sold for $60.9m
- Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer achieved $38.6m
- Picasso’s Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline) sold for $36.9m
- World record prices were seen for Vuillard, Magritte, Léger, Nolde and others
- US$34.2m at auction in July for Francesco Guardi’s Italian cityscape Venice: The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo Dei Camerlenghi became the most expensive Old Master sold at auction so far this year
- Painted in 1913 and seen as a key work in the development of abstract art, Painting with White Lines, by Wassily Kandinsky sold for £33m at Sotheby’s London in June
- Cy Twombly’s Untitled from 1970 achieved $52.9m at Christie’s New York in May
- Contemporary art auctions which took place during Frieze Week in London in October totalled £292m