Germany: 2012 top 10 versus 2011 top 10

[18 Jan 2013]

Germany: Top 10 2012 ranking vs top 10 2011

Friday Top! Every alternate Friday Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the ten highest auction sales in Germany in 2011 compared to the top ten for 2012.

Germany is the birthplace of a number of movements and artists widely celebrated in the history of art, including Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder in the 16th century, Caspar David Friedrich and Arnold Böcklin in the Romantic movement of the early 19th century, Emil Nolde, Kirchner and Kokoschka with Die Brücke (1906); August Mack and Franz Marc in the group gathered around Kandinsky and Der Blaue Reiter, and the Surrealists Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer. As with any categorisation based on nationality, it is difficult to define German art in terms of the country’s current-day borders, which have seen multiple changes down the centuries. Given the lack of political and territorial unity until the 19th century, it is perhaps more accurate to speak of Germanic art. During these centuries marked by intense creativity, German-speaking Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands are generally considered to form part of a single broad entity, with a shared cultural and linguistic identity.
Contemporary art owes much to these Germanic hotbeds, which make an active contribution to the development of a number of (often avant-garde) practices and theories of art. Living German artists currently number among the most successful in Europe, along with the British, and some of them easily measure up against US or Chinese stars in terms of performance at auction.
How has the local market reacted to the growing international renown of these artists? What trends have emerged in 2011 and 2012?

Top 10 : the ten highest auction sales in Germany in 2011

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Hermann Max PECHSTEIN $3881360 Weib mit Inder auf Teppich (Vorderseite), Früchte II (Rückseite) (1910) 12/10/2011 (Ketterer Kunst GmbH MÜNCHEN)
2 Raden Sjarief Bastaman SALEH $2273600 In letzer Not (1842) 05/13/2011 (Van Ham Kunstauktionen KÖLN)
3 Emil NOLDE $1611720 „Sonnenblumenim Abendlicht“ (1943) 11/24/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
4 Wassily KANDINSKY $1410255 „Ringsum“ (1924) 11/24/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
5 Max BECKMANN $1343100 „Elefant und Clownim Stall“ (1944) 11/24/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
6 Ernst Ludwig KIRCHNER $1235652 „Die Violinistin“ (1937) 11/24/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
7 Lucio FONTANA $1159644 « Concetto Spaziale » (1956) 05/27/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
8 Ernst Wilhelm NAY $1060650 « Chromatische Scheiben » (1960) 05/27/2011 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
9 Franz PFORR $997297 Nächtliche Heimkehr (1809) 11/18/2011 (Van Ham Kunstauktionen KÖLN)
10 Max BECKMANN $969336 Löwenbändiger (Zirkus) (1930) 12/02/2011 (Lempertz KÖLN)

Top 10 : the ten highest auction sales in Germany in 2012

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Gerrit DOW $4012152 Old man in his studio (1649) 05/12/2012 (Lempertz KÖLN)
2 Hendrick AVERCAMP $2003166 Winter scenery () 05/12/2012 (Lempertz KÖLN)
3 Otto MUELLER $1525150 Zwei Mädchen (Zwei Mädchenakte in Dreiviertelfigur) (c.1924) 11/29/2012 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
4 Johann KÖNIG $925375 Himmelfahrt christi (1622) 11/17/2012 (Lempertz KÖLN)
5 Otto DIX $840125 Sonnenaufgang (1913) 11/29/2012 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
6 Salomon VAN RUYSDAEL $787558 Landscape with a farmhouse riverscape with a ferryboat (1634) 05/12/2012 (Lempertz KÖLN)
7 Andy WARHOL $775500 Friedrich der Große (1986) 11/29/2012 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
8 Gabriele MÜNTER $746460 Am Starnberger See (1908) 05/31/2012 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)
9 Jan FRIS $735184 Toebackje (1665) 05/12/2012 (Lempertz KÖLN)
10 Emil NOLDE $710875 Zwei bärtige Männer (c.1931-1935) 11/29/2012 (Villa Grisebach BERLIN)


Unsurprisingly, Berlin and Cologne, with their Villa Grisebach and Lempertz auction houses, clearly topped the rankings in 2011 and 2012. Despite being one of the country’s main economic powerhouses, Munich trailed far behind with only one auction result making it into the 2011 Top 10, at auction house Ketterer. However, Ketterer’s performance on 10 December 2011 was impressive: $3.88m, with a single hammer blow, for the sale of Hermann Max PECHSTEIN‘s masterpiece Weib mit Inder auf Teppich (Vorderseite), Früchte II (Rückseite). German artists have been hotly prized over the last two years. Note, however, the absence of certain living artists who are nevertheless widely celebrated by the international marketplace: Gerhard RICHTER, Anselm KIEFER and Andreas GURSKY are all missing. Their million-dollar record sales were all posted outside their country of origin.

2011: Focus on Expressionism
The top sales in 2011 revealed that of the ten present lots, six were strongly Expressionistic works produced in the first half of the 20th century. More than just a movement, Expressionism arose out of a pivotal epoch, blighted by crisis, during which numerous artistic disciplines reacted against the academicism and social attitudes of the day. With their angst-ridden, pessimistic visions, the artists of this period were haunted by the threats and memories of two world wars. They drew inspiration from real life, which they distorted with an aggressive, tormented touch, coupled with violent colours, in search of greater expressive intensity. Described as « degenerate » and condemned by the Nazis, Expressionism nevertheless survived the advent of the totalitarian regime. This rich period of history is particularly sought after by aficionados around the world. With Germany at the core, a number of lots are still circulating in the market place, sometimes – when the quality is high – fetching record prices on a par with prestige sales in London or New York.
The Die Brücke group led the ranking thanks to the sales of works by Max BECKMANN Pechstein, Emil NOLDE and Ernst Ludwig KIRCHNER, in first, third and sixth place respectively. Meanwhile, Max Beckmann posted two outstanding results with the $1.34 million sale of Elefant und Clown im Stall and the nearly $970,000 achieved by Löwenbändiger (Zirkus). However, such sums were a far cry from his record sales, mainly recorded in the United States, to which he moved permanently in 1947.

2012: Spotlight on the 17th century
While the 2011 top ten included no works from the 17th century, 2012 marked a clear return to the Old Masters with half the rankings dating from that period. The rich cultural heritage of northern Germany between the 16th and 18th centuries undoubtedly accounts for the number of masterpieces going under the hammer in 2012. Its numerous princely courts were places of high culture, and accounted for some of the largest collections of the Dutch school. The latter, which dominated the 17th century, was particularly celebrated in the record bids achieved in Germany in 2012. One of Rembrandt’s pupils, Gerrit DOW, led the way thanks to the $4 million sale of his interior scene Old man in his studio (Lempertz, Cologne, 12 May). Winter scene specialist Hendrick AVERCAMP lay in second place with his oil on canvas Winter Scenery that sold for $2 million at Lempertz (Cologne, 12 May) and became the artist’s second best-selling work. Meanwhile Toebackje by Jan FRIS set a new record at auction for the artist, soaring to $735,000: more than four times its high estimate!
However, 2012 once again testified to collectors’ special affection for Expressionism, with four top ranking sales for works by Otto DIX, Emil Nolde, Gabriele MÜNTER and Otto MUELLER. In third place, Otto Mueller achieved his third best sale at auction, with Zwei mädchen (zwei madchenakte in dreiviertelfigur) going for $1.5 million (Villa Grisebach, Berlin, 29 November).

An analysis of the top ten in 2011 and 2012 reveals a marketplace centred on the local art scene. Of the twenty top results, only two were for non-German artists: Luciano Fontana and Andy Warhol! Even the exotic-sounding name of artist Raden Sjarief B. SALEH belies a relationship with Germany, as Indonesia was a German colony at the time. Over these two years, the domination of Expressionism has remained unassailable, scooping ten of the top twenty sales. Meanwhile, the « entrance ticket » dropped dramatically by $250,000 between 2011 and 2012.