Best new sculpture sales!

[27 Jan 2017]

Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, let’s focus on the 10 new records for 2016 for three-dimensional works.

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Henry MOORE (1898-1986) $33 125 678 Reclining Figure: Festival 2016-06-30 Christie’s Londres
2 Auguste RODIN (1840-1917) $20 410 000 L’éternel printemps 2016-05-09 Sotheby’s New York
3 Maurizio CATTELAN (1960) $17 189 000 Him 2016-05-08 Christie’s New York
4 Jean DE CAMBRAI (c.1374-1438) $5 653 185 Pleurants provenant du cortège funéraire du tombeau de Jean de France (1340-1416), duc de Berry 2016-06-15 Christie’s Paris
5 Pino PASCALI (1935-1968) $3 348 294 Coda di delfino (Tail of a Dolphin) 2016-10-06 Christie’s Londres
6 Lynn Russell CHADWICK (1914-2003) $2 211 505 Back to Venice 2016-06-30 Christie’s Londres
7 Laurent DELVAUX (1696-1778) $1 328 914 Caritas Romana (Roman Charity) 2016-12-06 Sotheby’s Londres
8 Georges SAUPIQUE (1889-1961) $1 319 072 “L’Afrique du Nord”/”Les Antilles”/”L’Afrique noire”/”L’Indochine” 2016-11-22 Artcurial Paris
9 Richard ORLINSKI (1966) $1 291 468 Gold Tiger lace 2016-03-26 Louiza Auktion Bruxelles
10 Jacobus AGNESIUS (c.1590-?) $1 204 417 Flagellation of Christ 2016-12-06 Christie’s Londres
copyright © 2016

The first observation of the new 2016 records is that no American artist is on the list, despite the much higher prices reached in previous years, the highest on the list being $33.1m for a Henry Moore. This Top 10 shows the decreasing number of record sales for major American artists, while the great diversity of European sculpture performs very well. This year, art of the 19th and 20th centuries takes a back seat as all periods are represented.

The second observation concerns the nature of the works selling for the highest prices: besides two fashionable contemporary artists locally (Orlinsky) and internationally (Cattelan), the ranking highlights the prestige and the rarity of the works. The sculpture Eternal Springtime by Rodin for example, which was sold for a record price of $20.4m, was the only marble sculpture auctioned during the year, as opposed to more than 120 bronze sculptures by the French artist.

Rarity is the main criterion regarding classical art: the presence of Jacobus Agnesius is a real surprise, since little is known of this artist who was active in the second half of the 17th century (he is said to be of German origin and to have worked in France and Italy), other than his virtuosity in his sculpture of Saint Sebastian exhibited in the Louvre. The $1.2m paid for his Flagellation of Christ last December pays tribute to one of the most beautiful sculptures by this little known master. The same applies to Jean de Cambrai. Sculptor from the end of the 14th century, Jean de Cambrai is famous for his sculpture of the recumbent Duc de Berry in the Cathedral of Bourges, as well as the forty mourners sculpted in alabaster, most of which were completed by the sculptors Etienne Bobillet and Paul Mosselmann after his death. The last two mourners in the funeral procession of Duc de Berry’s tomb, two “masterpieces of medieval statuary” according to Christie’s, were kept in the same family since 1807 and made a notable appearance at auction in June 2016 in Paris. The two figures sold for $5.6 million, being the first sales of this artist, of whom no work had appeared at auction during the last thirty years at least.

Not as old but almost as rare is the work of the French artist Georges Saupique . Four of his sculptures, which reached for the first time one million dollars, were commissioned in 1927 to decorate the hall of the headquarters of the “Compagnie Financière Française et Coloniale.” It took two years for the artist to complete this typical Art Deco piece, made of high quality materials (various marbles and bronzes). First sold at auction in 2000 for $643,000, his record price at the time, the updated price of this lot reflects the ongoing demand for original artists of the Art Deco period.

Rare also are sculptures in circulation by Belgian artist Laurent Delvaux (only 10 works have been auctioned in the last 30 years) and Italian artist Pino Pascali. Unexpectedly killed in a motorcycle accident in 1968 in Rome at the age of 33, Pascali nevertheless made his mark in the great art movements of the 20th century. He created a large and eclectic body of work, some of which was linked to the Arte Povera movement (he participated in the first exhibition of the group in 1967). Represented by the Italian gallery Tornabuoni, Pascali benefits from sustained demand in Europe. His work has passed the million dollar mark several times in recent years, but this is his first sale at more than $3 million, for a work created in 1966, now selling at similar prices as Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana