Living artists over 80

[10 Jun 2011]


Every other Friday Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the 10 best auction results generated by living artists over the age of 80.

The ten best auction results in 2011 for work by artists who are today over eighty years old reflect the increasing interest in this generation from investors reassured by artists who often have excellent CVs and have often been collected by some of the world’s major museums.

Top 10 : best auction results generated by living artists over the age of 80

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Cy TWOMBLY $13 500 000 Unititled (1967) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)
2 Lucian FREUD $4 662 330 Self portrait (1952) 02/10/2011 (Sotheby’s London)
3 ZAO Wou-Ki $4 626 000 2.11.59 (1959) 05/28/2011 (Christie’s Hong Kong)
4 ZAO Wou-Ki $4 369 000 14.11.63 (1963) 05/28/2011 (Christie’s Hong Kong)
5 John Angus CHAMBERLAIN $4 200 000 Nutcracker (1958) 05/09/2011 (Sotheby’s NY)
6 Robert INDIANA $3 600 000 Love Red-Blue (1990) 05/12/2011 (Christie’s NY)
7 Morton Wayne THIEBAUD $3 500 000 Pies (1961) 05/09/2011 (Sotheby’s NY)
8 CHU Teh-Chun $3 215 000 Inspiration Hivernale (1987/90) 04/04/2011 (Sotheby’s Hong Kong)
9 Ellsworth KELLY $3 100 000 Green white (1968) 05/12/2011 (Phillips de Pury & Co NY)
10 Robert RYMAN $3 000 000 Untitled (1962-1963) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)

Flurry of new records in May 2011 for the over-80s

Among the leaders of this generation of artists, most are American (six out of ten), three are Chinese and one is British.
Cy TWOMBLY is at the top of the ranking after his Unititled fetched $13.5m on 11 May 2011 at Christie’s New York. This new record for Twombly’s was $5.7m better than his previous record (another Untitled work fetched $7.75m at Sotheby’s NY on 9 November 2005). Although an exceptional result, it was not all that surprising since his three best auctions results have all been generated by works he created in the 1960s.
At the same 11 May sale, an Untitled piece by Robert RYMAN fetched a healthy $3m. Although far from his $8.6m record signed in May 2006 (Untitled – Sotheby’s NY), it was nevertheless the artist’s third best auction result.
The following day, at its afternoon Contemporary Art sale, Christie’s managed to sell a Love sculpture by Robert INDIANA entitled: Love Red-Blue. Never before presented for public sale, this gigantic work by the American Pop artist fetched $3.6m, ($600,000 above the high estimate), beating the artist’s previous record of $3.4m set on 12 May 2010 at Sotheby’s New York for an acrylic canvas entitled Airmail Stamps.
On 12 May 2011, under the Phillips de Pury hammer, an oil on canvas by Ellsworth KELLY entitled Green white sold within its estimated price range for $3.1m. In 2003 the same work fetched just $1.2m at Christie’s.

Three days earlier (9 May), Sotheby’s New York sale of the collection belonging to Allan Stone, the New York gallery owner and abstract expressionist collector, set a new record for John Angus CHAMBERLAIN when his Nutcracker fetched $4.2m vs. an estimated price range of $1.2m – 1.8m. It also produced a second-best result for Morton Wayne THIEBAUD whose Pies fetched $3.5m, a result not far behind his all-time record ($4m) generated in 2007 by Seven Suckers at Christie’s in New York, and bringing Thiebaud just another step closer to artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein who were all exhibited at the Allan Stone gallery.

Hong Kong in the ranking…
Sign of the times, China is also acclaiming its living masters with three of the results in this ranking being generated by Chinese artists in Hong Kong.
The 28 May 2011 sale orchestrated by Christie’s Hong Kong generated over $53.9m, notably thanks to 2 record results for canvasses (2.11.59 and 14.11.63) by the artist ZAO Wou-Ki which fetched $4.6m and $4.3m respectively – both at more than double their high estimates. Over the last decade, Zao Wou-ki’s price index has rocketed, rising by more than 556%.
Last April, Sotheby’s Hong Kong scored the second best result for the abstract painter CHU Teh-Chun when his Inspiration Hivernale fetched $3.2m.

The only Briton in the ranking, Lucian FREUD, nevertheless takes second place after his Self-Portrait –no larger than an A6 format – fetched the equivalent of $4.6m (£2.9m) at Sotheby’s in London, (10/02/11). This was not a record, but it was the most expensive price ever paid for such a small work by the artist.

Had such a ranking been drawn up ten years ago, the dominance of American artists would have been total. While Chinese collectors have no qualms about investing massively in their “domestic” artists, in France there are still not enough art collectors willing to support their artistic compatriots. Although the French artist Pierre SOULAGES, born in 1919, is not in this top 10, his Peinture 130 x 162 cm generated a new personal auction record of $2.8m on 31 May 2011 at Sotheby’s in Paris.