Post-war drawings

[01 Oct 2010]

Every fortnight Artprice provides you with a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The theme of today’s TOP article is the Top10 auction results generated by Post-war drawings.

Despite a curve almost matching that of the global art market, the price index for drawings has better resisted the speculative bubble than any other artistic medium. It contracted just -11% compared with a -36% drop for the global art price index between January 2008 and October 2009.
Moreover this medium, considered affordable and not very speculative, has posted a 26% increase since July 2009 vs. a 7% rise for the painting segment. The drawings segment has not only been stimulated by Old Master drawings (world record in December 2009 for RAPHAEL’s Head of a muse which fetched $42.7m at Christie’s) but also by a number of excellent results from Post-war and Contemporary signatures.

Top 10: best auctions results in 2010 by post-war drawings

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Roy LICHTENSTEIN $3 617 040 Collage for nude with red shirt (1995) 06/30/2010 (Christie’s London)
2 Roy LICHTENSTEIN $1 600 000 Girl in Water (1968) 05/11/2010 (Christie’s NY)
3 Alighiero BOETTI $1 409 490 Ononimo (1973 02/11/2010 (Christie’s London)
4 Frank AUERBACH $1 390 358 Head of Leon Kossoff (1956) 02/10/2010 (Sotheby’s London)
5 Jasper JOHNS $1 150 000 Target with Four Faces (1979) 05/11/2010 (Christie’s NY)
6 Jasper JOHNS $840 000 Untitled (1988) 05/11/2010 (Christie’s NY)
7 Yayoi KUSAMA $818 500 Repetitive-Vision 03/11/2010 (Christie’s NY)
8 Piero MANZONI $711 138 achrome (c.1959) 05/26/2010 (Sotheby’s MILAN)
9 Bruce NAUMAN $650 000 Human Nature (1983) 06/09/2010 (Heritage Galleries Dallas)
10 Eva HESSE $600 000 Untitled (1968) 05/12/2010 (Sotheby’s NY)

Pop Art in demand…
The first two works in the ranking belong to Roy LICHTENSTEIN, one of the major figures of Pop Art who signed two new records for drawings during the first half of 2010: Collage for nude with red shirt sold in June for triple its high estimate at £2.4m ($3.6m) at Christie’s and Girl in Water, a lead pencil on paper drawing, fetched $1.6m at the same auctioneer. No drawing by the artist had fetched more than $1.5m since 2007. Since January 2010, six of his drawings have changed hands (out of 219 lots sold) for sums ranging from $2,200 for a small collage (13 x 20 cm) to $3.6 million.
Jasper JOHNS, another Pop Art figure, is in 5th and 6th place in the ranking with two drawings that sold at the Post-War & Contemporary Art sale orchestrated by Christie’s on 11 May 2010: his ink on plastic Target With Four Faces fetched $1.15m and his Untitled (1988) water-colour sold for $840,000.
Since the beginning of the year, Jasper Johns’ price index has inflated by 101%, notably thanks to a new record for Flag, his version of the American flag, which fetched $25.5m at the 11 May sale in New York.

There are also two places in the Top 10 for Arte Povera
Alighiero BOETTI and Piero MANZONI, two figures of Arte Povera movement are in third and eighth place respectively. Boetti has signed a new record with his drawing a href= » »>Ononimo. This biro work attracted strong bidding in February 2010 at Christie’s when it fetched £900,000 ($1.4m) against an estimate of £250,000. Much appreciated for his tapestries which generate 67% of his auction revenue, Boetti is one of the unavoidable signatures of Post-war & Contemporary Art sales in New York, London and Milan (54% of sales on Italian soil).
A work entitled Achrome by Piero Manzoni (known for his Artist’s Shit which denounced mass production and consumerism) fetched €580,000 ($711,138) at Sotheby’s in Milan on 26 May 2010. After a difficult 2009 with a 50% contraction in his price index and just one 7-figure result to his name, Manzoni is back with a price index up +87%.

One of the founders of the London School has taken 4th place in the ranking: Frank AUERBACH’s charcoal drawing, Head of Leon Kossoff, fetched £890,000 ($1.4m) at Sotheby’s in London, a sum roughly 10 times the high estimate for the piece and which set a new record for the artist in the drawings category.
Auerbach’s market is essentially English: 97% of his auction revenue is generated in the UK from 93% of his total auction transactions. Despite the rise of his price index since 2002 (following a major retrospective at the Royal Academy of Art in 2001) his works have remain affordable: 40% of his auction lots sell for less than $7,000.

The Japanese artist Yayoi KUSAMA is in 7th place with her new record for the drawing Repetitive-Vision which fetched $818,500 against an estimate of $100,000 at Christie’s on 11 March 2010. This work is very representative of the artist’s “obsessive” work. While 48% of her lots sell in Japan, the USA accounts for 49% of her auction revenue vs. 28% from Japan and 12% from the UK.

Bruce NAUMAN and Eva HESSE are the last two in this Top 10 with respectively Human Nature and Untitled. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), Bruce Nauman is a multidisciplinary artist and some of his sculptures and installations have generated results over a million dollars. With Human Nature, which sold for $650,000 in June at Heritage Galleries & Auctioneer, Nauman has signed a new record for a drawing.
Eva Hesse is one of the representatives of the Anti-Form movement that included Americans like Robert MORRIS and Bruce Nauman. Far from the altitude of her previous records for works of the same style (often in 7-figures), Eva Hesse is tenth in our ranking this year for her Untitled brown ink on paper drawing (33 x 34.3 cm) which fetched $600,000 at Sotheby’s in New York on 12 May 2010. In 2010, one would expect to pay $16,000 for a Hesse gouache measuring 8 x 10 cm. In fact, of her 8 drawings sold during the year, 6 fetched a higher figure.