Contemporary art market: results from the spring/summer season of 2006

[02 Oct 2006]


This month the European art market will gyrate to the rhythm of the contemporary art fairs, with the Frieze Art Fair starting 12 October in London and then the Paris FIAC on 26 October and Art Cologne on 1 November. At the same time, the auction houses will capitalise on these events by organising major concurrent sales of contemporary art.
Before the fall season begins, Artprice here provides a brief overview of the ebullient contemporary art market so far this year.

Contemporary Art is indeed currently the most dynamic segment of the market in general. With a wider audience every year and collectors increasingly focusing on this segment, the prices negotiated at the fairs and auction rooms are constantly rising. Photography is currently the hottest medium. Over the period January 1996 – September 2006, the price index for photographs by artists born after 1945 has risen 262% whereas their sculptures and paintings have inflated by 156% and 158% respectively. Their prints have gained only 33% over the same period.

With photography so buoyant, it is not surprising to find so many photographers in Artprice’s TOP 100 contemporary artists index – a ranking based on auction results from the spring/summer season of 2006.

Download the TOP 100 artists for contemporary art

The top photographer in the ranking is Richard PRINCE. Having generated revenue of close to EUR 4.7m and a new record of EUR 1.2m for Good News, Bad News (acrylic and silkscreen inks on canvas from 1989) he arrives in third place in our TOP 100 index. Already in November 2005, his classic Marlboro advertising campaign photo Cowboy fetched a massive USD 1.2m.
Another icon of the contemporary photography market, Andreas GURSKY, moved up from 15th to 8th place in the index after his 99 Cent sold for USD 2m on 10 May thus becoming the most expensive contemporary photograph on the market.

Like last year, the American artist Jeff KOONS is at the very top of our TOP 100 index. Having generated EUR 8.8m during the 2006 spring/summer season (vs EUR 6.7m last year), Koons is the undisputed star of the contemporary art market. His all-time auction record was set in 2001 for a sculpture entitled Mickael Jackson and Bubbles, created in 1988, which sold for USD 5.1m at Sotheby’s New York to the Norwegian shipping magnate Astrup Fearnley. Completely unknown to the auction world in 1990, Koons is today perfectly accustomed to million dollar sales. No less than three of his works have crossed that threshold since the start of the year, including New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Hoover, an installation made from vacuum cleaners that sold for USD 4.7m at Sotheby’s. The work refers directly to his The New, one of his first works exhibited in 1980 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and consisting of vacuum cleaners in plexi-glass cabinets.

Another specialist of the medium of installations, Damien HIRST – star of the so-called Young British Artists – also takes second place in our TOP-100 index. On 9 May earlier this year, Hirst’s Away from the Flock, divided, an aquarium containing a sliced lamb, sold at Christie’s in New York for USD 3m. A few minutes later his Beauty and the Beast, a diptych from 2002, went under the hammer for USD 1.5m.

The American avant-garde has no fewer than 24 artists in our TOP 100 index compared with 39 European artists. Among the rising European artists this year we note the performances of Englishman Peter DOIG with a GBP 1m sale on 21 June at Sotheby’s London, and two Germans, Albert OEHLEN who entered the Top 100 for the first time directly at the 15th position, and Matthias WEISCHER who arrives in 17th place this year! This 33 year-old age rising star, patroned by Saatchi and presented at the 2005 Venice Biennial, was highly sought-after in London this year, despite the fact that his paintings had never appeared at auction before last autumn.

Indicative of the rapid development of the Chinese art market, our TOP 100 index contains as many Chinese artists as Americans. Of these, the leader, Zhang Xiaogang, takes 11th place in our TOP 100 ranking after generating close to EUR 2m in 2006, including a top price of USD 775 000 for Amnesia and Memory: Man, a painting from 2003. In view of the development of the Chinese market, we would not be surprised to see Chinese artists dominating the contemporary art landscape in 2007.