Born after 1980

[04 Jul 2013]


Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the decade’s top 10 auction sales for artists born in the 1980s.

Born after 1980
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 LIU Chunxi $3,311,000 Divinity () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
2 LIU Chunxi $1,806,000 Animals and lotus () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
3 LIU Chunxi $1,505,000 Animals () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
4 LIU Chunxi $1,505,000 Guanyin goddess () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
5 LIU Chunxi $1,354,500 Figures () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
6 LIU Chunxi $1,354,500 Peacock () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
7 LIU Chunxi $1,204,000 Bird and flowers () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
8 LIU Chunxi $1,053,500 Buddha () 20/12/2010 (Beijing CNTC International Aution Co. Ltd. 北京)
9 Tauba AUERBACH $648,438 Untitled (Fold) (2010) 26/06/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
10 Tauba AUERBACH $492,192 “Untitled (Fold) XV” (2010) 27/06/2013 (Phillips LONDON)


The list of the most sought-after young artists at auction once again reflects the foibles of the Chinese art market compared to the strong popularity of American artists. This aberration becomes apparent when we list the top ten10 sales for artists born after 1980, with the Chinese artist Liu Chunxi – a complete unknown to Western collectors – not only filling the top eight places but also breaking the million-dollar barrier.

China comes out on top
Born in 1981, Liu Chunxi has an impressive CV in the eyes of those of his compatriots who are passionate about traditional art. He was educated at a religious temple and began designing buddhas at a young age. Using this deep knowledge of the traditions and rules of Chinese art as a foundation, the adolescent artist modernised his style somewhat while studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. However, he has clung onto his favoured subjects of animals, landscapes, buddhas and scenes of everyday life and has continued to create ink drawings on rolls of silk. He finds himself in great demand at Asian exhibitions, and his work has been shown in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia. But his works have never been exhibited in the West because this is really not his core audience. How has Liu Chunxi risen to the top of this list? Thanks to an incidental phenomenon, a unique session that took place in Beijing in 2010 where the sale of eight works generated some $13 million (before buyer’s premium, Beijing CNTC International Auction).
This amazing coup lasted for just one sale. Since then, not a single work by Liu Chunxi has passed the test at auction. The dominance of this young artist is therefore a perfect example of the artificially inflated prices of the Chinese art market.
This one-day success is due to the pronounced preference of most Chinese buyers for traditional art (drawings and calligraphy). It is a totally local market that feels no need to expand into the global auction market.

Could we say the same of the young American artist Tauba AUERBACH, who is already hovering close to the million-dollar mark? She has only sold at auction in New York and London, where she recently set a new record of $781,020 including buyer’s premium (Untitled (Fold), 26 June 2013, Christie’s London). She may be of little interest to Chinese buyers immersed in their own traditions, but she is taking the perfect route to gaining international recognition from collectors and players in the international contemporary art market.

Tauba Auerbach : the thirty-something Chosen One
Since her first exhibition in 2001 at a gallery in San Francisco (Luggage Store Gallery), the artist has taken part in almost 100 shows, many in the USA but also in Europe, (Spain, Portugal, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium, UK, etc.) including the Gagosian, Gladstone and Paula Cooper galleries and major institutions such as MoMA, the Whitney Museum, MoCA Los Angeles and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Such major exhibitions always serve to increase the popularity of young artists. Tauba Auerbach went on to generate her best hammer price just two days after the end of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Abstract Generation: Now in Print, 15 March – 24 June 2013).
The enthusiasm for this young artist reflects the avid demand in the West for non-narrative art and for new forms of abstract work. Her works play with optical effects, perceptions of colour and also with material, which the artist folds, twists or irons before applying the paint. Such a way of handling visual information is very far removed from the cultural codes that are held in such high esteem by the top contemporary art auctions in China.