Having emerged as the world's strongest art marketplace last year, it comes as no surprise to find China's two leading artists now holding the top two places in Artprice's global ranking of artists by auction revenue.
So we say farewell to Pablo PICASSO who since 1989 had occupied first place on the podium 17 times, of which 13 in the last 14 years. Indeed the dethroning of the Spanish artist has been particularly spectacular since not only has he been overtaken by QI Baishi and ZHANG Daqian, he is also now behind Andy WARHOL. This is the first time in 21 years that Pablo Picasso has not been among the top 3.
2011 definitively confirmed Chinese domination of the art market: with a more than 40% share of the global art market and 6 out of the world’s top 10 best-selling artists, China is now incontrovertibly the world’s leader of the art market.
Zhang Daqian – $550 million
The Modern master’s progression appears to have no limits, after an exceptional year 2010 (nearly $314m in auction revenue and more than 58 results above the million-dollar threshold), 2011 saw Zhang Daqian take the number 1 spot in Artprice’s global ranking of artist’s by auction revenue. Indeed, with a total annual revenue figure of $550m in 2011, Zhang Daqian scored the best annual result for an artist ever recorded.
With 1,361 lots offered (of which 1,128 lots found buyers), an ever-greater quantity of the artist’s work is appearing on the market (+20% compared with 2010) with demand apparently keeping pace (only 20% unsold).
With more than 111 results above $1m, Zhang Daqian generated the highest number of results above the 7-figure threshold (USD) in 2011 of any artist, and his Lotus and Mandarin Ducks generated his best-ever auction result at $21.8 m. Created in 1947 and exposed as of 1957 in France and then worldwide, the work sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HK$ 170m at more than ten times its low estimate. That was also the highest sum ever paid for a work of art at a Hong Kong auction.
Five of Zhang Daqian’s ten best-ever auction results were generated last year, again accelerating his price index which gained another 50 % in 2011 after already tripling since 2005. Before 2005, 90% of his works sold for less than $100,000; since 2005 only 57% of his works were presented at below that threshold.
In fact in 2011 only 1.9% of Zhang Daqian’s lots could be acquired for less than $5,000 and only a tiny fraction of his works sell outside Asia: four in New York and two in Paris, all of which demolished their pre-sale estimates (95% of his works --- wherever they are presented - exceed their low estimate …). These works represented no more than 0.03% of his total 2011 revenue.
Qi Baishi – $510 million
Surprising second in 2010, Qi Baishi maintains his ranking this year. Already fourth in 2009, demand for Qi Baishi’s work is not weakening by any means; only 18% of his lots remained unsold in 2011 and 96% fetched more than their high estimate! In fact, 1,340 of his works were offered last year and the demand response was very strong indeed with no less than three new personal records being set throughout the year. Half of Qi Baishi’s results above the $5m line were generated in 2011 (seven out of fourteen), including his latest record and best-ever global result for a drawing, Eagle Standing on Pine Tree; Four-Character Couplet in Seal Script which fetched $57m. This result was also the best auction result of the year 2011 (15th best result of all time in any medium) and Qi Baishi became the first Chinese artist to join the all-time, all-media, top-twenty results ranking.
Slightly more exported than his compatriot Zhang Daqian, 30 works by the artist were offered outside Asia in 2011 (and 25 sold) representing no more than 0.58% of his total auction revenue. Qi Baishi’s prices also rose 35% last year, after an increase of 400% between 2009 and 2010.
Andy Warhol – $325 million
The only Western artist remaining in the top 3, Andy Warhol generated a slightly better total than his 2010 auction revenue ($313m). Amounting to $325m, the American Pop artist’s total gives him third place in the global ranking for 2011, and, for the second time only, he overtook Pablo Picasso. Warhol’s 2011figures strangely resemble his 2010 figures with a similar annual total (+4%), 46 million-plus results (vs. 40 in 2010), a 26% unsold rate (vs. 29% in 2010) and a volume of lots sold just 1% up from the previous year. The only real difference was the absence of a record result in the top 5 (after his Men In Her Life fetched $56.5m in 2010, the year’s 4th best result). In 2011 his best result was generated by a Self-Portrait that fetched $34.25m against a pre-sale estimate of $20m – $30m. This was in fact the year’s 10th best global result.
Still very much in demand in the West, 75% of his revenue came from the United States in 2011 and 23% from Europe (including 21% from the UK). Warhol does not yet trigger frenzied bidding at Asian sales and in 2011only 0.2% of his annual revenue came from Asia from 13 lots (i.e. less than 1% of his total auction lots offered worldwide). The relatively slowness to acquire new tastes of the American market, where 37% of Andy Warhol’s works are sold, is maintaining the artist’s price index (+12% in 2011).