Artprice TOP 10 : how do the art market heavyweights measure up in 2004?

[03 Mar 2005]


Every year Artprice publishes a ranking of artists on the basis of the sales turnover generated by their works at auctions.

In 2003, the world’s top ten artists by turnover generated a total of USD 393 million at auction. By comparison, 2004 was an exceptional year, with the top-ten sales revenue total reaching USD 662 million, a figure that represents 18.6% of total art market turnover with less than 1.5% of the transaction volume.

1- Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973): USD 240,991,946

As in 2003, Pablo Picasso was at the top of the ranking, but this time with a revenue figure of USD 241 million (three times more than in 2003). From this point of view, Pablo Picasso is the unchallenged leader of the art market. With more than 1,000 lots sold over 12 months, the market for his works alone represents 6.7% of total Fine Art revenue worldwide. In 2004 his leadership was enhanced even further by an impressive record sale: his Garçon à la pipe, was the first art work of all time to sell for over USD 100 million (incl. costs). This sale, along with others, boosted Picasso’s price index by 24% in 2004.

2- Claude MONET (1840-1926): USD 80,467,700

The number 2, Claude Monet, has been frequently at the top end of the rankings. The number 1 Impressionist on the list, as in 2002, his market does nevertheless appear to be waning and we would not be surprised to see his ranking regress in coming years. In fact, in 2003 the number of Monet paintings sold was half the number that changed hands in 1999. At the same time, prices for Monet’s works have been continuously falling over the last two years (-45%), a situation that could easily lead to a rapid deterioration in the Monet market. With the exception of Pissaro, demand for Impressionist works from millionaire collectors appears to be increasingly receding. Nevertheless as long as there are one or two large nymph-theme canvases on sale in New York, Monet’s presence in the top 20 seems assured.

3- Andy WARHOL (1928-1987): USD 77,508,393

Having made his début among the top ten in 1998 (after Sotheby’s New York sold his silk-screen print entitled Orange Marilyn for over USD 17.3 million – still a record for the artist), Andy Warhol ranked third position for the second year running. Underlying this performance, there has been a phenomenal increase in his prices (+646% in 10 years) with a very substantial volume of transactions. Thus the figure-head of Pop Art has proved that art can be a very profitable investment.

4- Pierre-Auguste RENOIR (1841-1919): USD 44,630,185

Renoir had a relatively quiet year in 2004. Demand appears to be diminishing and his works lost an average 7% of their value in one year. In a medium-term perspective, works by Auguste Renoir, demand for which peaked in the 1990s, are now considered more in the ‘safe investment’ category than in the ‘profit generating’ category. Nevertheless, as in 2003, Renoir reached forth place in the annual revenue ranking in 2004 following two auction sales: Les rosiers à Wargemont (1879) and Jeune femme se baignant (1888) which sold for USD 7.6 million and GBP 3.6 million respectively.

5- Amedeo MODIGLIANI (1884-1920): USD 42,606,422

The sale last year of Jeanne Hébuterne devant une porte (1919) for the tidy sum of USD 28 million set a new record for Amedeo Modigliani and pushed the artist up four places in the 2004 ranking (to fifth place). However, in view of the lack of liquidity on the Modigliani market, we are unlikely to see him move any further up the ranking in coming years. Having died before reaching the age of 40, there are only 400 listed oil paintings and his drawings sell for between EUR 10,000 and 100,000. The net result is that his revenue volumes fluctuate very sharply from year to year – closely correlated with the quality of the lots up for auction.

6- Henri MATISSE (1869-1954) USD 38,586,942

The record price for a Matisse work still dates back to 9 November 2000 when his La Robe Persane (1940) – estimated at USD 9-12 million – sold for USD 15.5 million in the midst of the sharp rise in art market prices that occurred in 2000 (+47% between January and December 2000). Just over a year after the « Matisse-Picasso » exhibition, we note that although Picasso was the most expensive artist in 2004, works by his friend Matisse have been a far more profitable investment in the short- to medium-term (prices rose 100% over 6 years). Of some 200 Matisse lots sold at auction in 2004, the highest price paid was GBP 5.9 million for Odalisque au fauteuil noir (1942).

7- Paul GAUGUIN (1848-1903): USD 38,153,617

In November 2004, Gauguin was in the spotlight following the sale of his painting Maternité (II) (1899) which although estimated at USD 40-50 million, only found a buyer at USD 35 million. However, the painting still fetched five million dollars more than the highest record set for a Monet work. 120 years ago, that would have seemed inconceivable: a Gauguin painting entitled Te Fare sold for only FRF 180 while Monet’s Vue de la Cathédrale de Rouen sold the same year for FRF 13,000. Over the very long term (from 1895 to 2004), Gauguin’s drawings generated an average annual return of around 5% (with inflation stripped out).

8- John Singer SARGENT (1856-1925): USD 37,589,949

After a remarkable « American Art » auction that generated a new record for an American impressionist art work, John Singer Sargent’s ranking jumped from 281st to 8th place! Sargent’s Group with Parasols, a painting from the Rita and Daniel Fraad collection, fetched an impressive USD 21 million on 1 December. Like Pablo Picasso’s all-time-record price with Garçon à la Pipe, Sargent’s Group with Parasols painting also dates back to 1905, apparently a vintage year for art collectors.

9- Edgar DEGAS (1834-1917): USD 31,423,773

In addition to the well-known sculpture Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (1879-1881) knocked down at GBP 4.5 million, several Degas works have topped the million dollar mark including his paintings La Promenade des Chevaux and Avant la Course that each sold for USD 3.9 million. Historically, Degas’ priciest works have been his pastels of dancers with some pieces fetching in excess of USD 10 million. But none of these came up for auction in 2004.

10- Joan MIRO (1893-1983): USD 30,190,646

Joan Miró’s ranking improved substantially in 2004 driven by very strong bids for his works, including USD 10.5 million for La caresse des étoiles (1938). The Catalan artist’s record price the USD 11.5 million that was paid on 6 November 2001 for his Portrait de Madame K (1924) at Christie’s New York. In 2004, his prices rose by an average 20%.