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Flash News: $12.2m for Banksy – New records at Christie’s – Nara, Japan’s most expensive living artist

[18 Oct 2019]

As Artprice by Art Market has just released it Annual Contemporary Art Market Report, we take a look at the first auction records of the new season.

$12.2 million for Banksy’s political parody

 Devolved Parliament is a huge painting (250 x 420 cm) completed 10 years ago, the biggest known canvas by Britain’s most popular living artist. Entrusted to Sotheby’s London, the auctioneer decided to sell this painting with an estimate of $1.8 – 2.5 million on 3 October, the same day the Frieze started, thereby ensuring the best possible level of demand, and just a year after BANKSY remotely destroyed his Girl With Balloon in the same Sotheby’s auction room seconds after it was hammered down for approximately $1.4 million (5 October 2018).

As the Brexit crisis reaches unprecedented intensity, the timing and the location of the sale of a painting representing the British Parliament as chimpanzees was particularly well chosen. The bidding took 12 long minutes to reach £8,500,000, taking Banksy’s new personal auction record to $12.2 million including fees.

Following this spectacular result, Banksy said on his Instagram account, “Shame I didn’t still own it” (he had sold it in 2011). He combined this message with a quote from the famous art critic Robert Hugues: “Art should make us feel more clearly and more intelligently, it should give us coherent sensations that we otherwise would not have. But the price of a work of art is now part of its function, its new job is to sit on the wall and get more expensive. Instead of being the common property of humankind the way a book is, art becomes the particular property of someone who can afford it … Suppose that every worthwhile book in the world cost $1 million – imagine what a catastrophic effect on culture that would have.”

New records at Christie’s…

The new season’s first Post-War & Contemporary Art sales in London attracted bidders from 63 different countries and raised £128 million. New world records were set for several artists, including for the American Carl ANDRE, whose well-dated (1969) installation of floor-posed industrial plates reached $2.9 million. The younger generation also performed well with new records by Loie Hollowell (born in 1983) and Tschabalala Self (born in 1990).

Supported by the Pace gallery, the American artist Loie HOLLOWELL reached $443,000, more than four times the high estimate for an abstract painting completed in 2014 (Lady in Green).

The young Tschabalala SELF also enjoyed considerable success, this time with a ‘committed’ work on the iconographic significance of black women’s bodies in contemporary culture. The artist explains that her work focuses on “the emotional, physical and psychological impact of the black woman’s body as an icon and is primarily devoted to examining the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. Collective fantasies surround the black body and create a cultural niche in which our contemporary understanding of black femininity exists.”

Of course, this socio-political vein has been attracting a lot of attention in London and New York in recent years. On 4 October last, the value of her work Sapphire (2015) surged dramatically to $487,000 (against an estimate of $120,000 – $180,000), a spectacular price for this 29-year-old artist, and her work has already been integrated into important collections such as the Rubell Family Collection, the Perez Art Museum in Miami and the Luma Foundation in Switzerland.

Yoshitomo Nara becomes Japan’s most expensive living artist

On 6 October at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong, the 60-year-old Japanese artist demolished his previous record of $4.4 million (Sleepless Night (Cat) when his imposing canvas (234 x 208cm) Knife Behind Back fetched nearly $25 million. This work dates back to 2000 when the artist returned to Japan after 12 years in Germany. The young girl in the painting, typically manga style, is apparently concealing a weapon behind her back (as indicated by the title of the work). The artist explains that he sees these children “as beings surrounded by bigger and badder people, more heavily armed”.

In addition to this exceptional record, two other “girls” crossed the $4 million threshold at the beginning of October in Hong Kong. The market has clearly confirmed the rise in Yoshitomo NARA’s prices (+ 719% since 2003) and he is now one of the highest priced Contemporary artists in the world. Our 2018/2019 Contemporary Art Market Report places Nara in sixth place in the global auction turnover rankings behind the Americans Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Kaws, Christopher Wool and George Condo (top 500).

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