The best auction sales since September

[27 Oct 2016]

Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, Artprice reveals the ten best auction sales worldwide since the beginning of September 2016.

Which art works have attained the highest prices in the past two months? Where in the world are the highest auction prices? The ranking is plain and simple, excluding New York and Paris, London is in the lead (six in total) and Hong Kong (four in total).

The best auction sales since September
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) US$18,252,239 Lotus in the Autumn Wind (秋風搖翠) 03/10/2016 Poly Auction Hong Kong HONG KONG
2 WU Guanzhong (1919-2010) US$13,689,179 A Lotus Pond (荷塘) 03/10/2016 Poly Auction Hong Kong HONG KONG
3 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) US$13,411,211 Hannibal 07/10/2016 Sotheby’s LONDRES
4 Gerhard RICHTER (1932) US$12,984,693 Garten 07/10/2016 Sotheby’s LONDRES
5 Adrian GHENIE (1977) US$9,054,022 Nickelodeon 06/10/2016 Christie’s LONDRES
6 SAN Yu (1901-1966) US$7,605,099 Pink Nude on Floral Sheet (碎花毯上的粉紅裸女) 03/10/2016 Poly Auction Hong Kong HONG KONG
7 Peter DOIG (1959) US$7,439,953 Grasshopper 07/10/2016 Sotheby’s LONDRES
8 Jean DUBUFFET (1901-1985) US$6,204,438 Visiteur au chapeau bleu (Visitor with Blue Hat) 04/10/2016 Christie’s LONDRES
9 Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) US$6,062,791 20 Pink Mao’s 05/10/2016 Phillips LONDRES
10 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) US$6,017,051 Paysage dans la lune 02/10/2016 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
copyright © 2016 artprice.com

New York was absent from the calendar, because major prestigious sales don’t start until mid-November in the Big Apple. In London on the other hand, major sales of postwar and contemporary art were organised by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips during the Frieze Art Fair, focusing on major artists: Dubuffet, Warhol, Basquiat and Richter as well as the new stars of contemporary painting such as Peter Doig and Adrian Ghenie, with sales of between $6m and $13.4m.

Regarding Western art, the ‘oldest’ work in the ranking is the Visitor with the blue hat (1955) by Dubuffet, who is now at his peak. At recent Parisian art fairs (FIAC and Art Elysées) pride of place was given to the artist and his works featured on many stands… and for good reason as Dubuffet is now ranked 26th in the world of the most successful artists at auction. He gained 34 places in the rankings, notably thanks to the sale of Paris Polka for $24.8m at Christie’s on May 11th, 2015. With the sale of this major work last year, Jean Dubuffet has beaten his record by more than 17 million. The founder of the Art Brut movement (1948) has indeed come back strongly in recent months on the cultural scene, notably with a large exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland at the beginning of the year (Jean Dubuffet. Métamorphoses du paysage, January 31st to May 8th, 2016) and with an exceptional collection of works currently on display atLaM (Jean des villes, Jean des champs, until January 8th, 2017). The only French artist in the ranking, Jean Dubuffet alone illustrates the growing success of a current market trend: the recognition and integration in art history of « outsiders » who are now popular in the auction rooms.

The art market being hesitant in recent months, our ranking reveals another major positive trend, with the strong growth of the Chinese market.

China has entered the race

After a period of sharp contraction in its market, China proves that it has powerful resources to support its artists, the great names of the 20th century in particular. Since the beginning of the year, the Chinese market extols painters and sculptors already recognised by the art world, artists born before 1945 and deemed ready for auction, rather than young talents likely to suffer from speculation. The market is very dynamic, especially at Poly Auction in Hong Kong, the third largest auction house. If what is on offer in mainland China lost its international appeal after the soaring prices of Chinese contemporary art in the years between 2006-2009, it is starting afresh with new works and artists, now showing a real maturity.

After a sharp contraction of the high-end market, where the number of million dollar auctions fell from 286 in the first half of (2014?) to 170 in the first half of 2015, China recorded the world’s best result of the new 2016 season, with $18.2m paid for Lotus in the Autumn Wind, a work by Cui Ruzhuo, which was completed the same year.

The ambitious Cui Ruzhuo was born in Beijing in 1944, studied in China and the United States and taught at the Chinese National Academy of Arts. This contemporary scholar, also a great collector of Chinese cultural objects, attracts wealthy Chinese buyers by reinventing the art of ink drawing. Since last year, Cui Ruzhuo has been one of the most collectible living artists in the world , adding to his dramatic list of auction results. Because the $18.2m paid for hisLotus in the Autumn Wind is not his best sale: six months before, a $39.5mrecord was set in Hong Kong on April 4th, 2016 at Poly Auction for The Grand Snowing Mountains. There is great competition for his work from rich Chinese collectors, making his drawings even more collectible than Pablo Picasso’s.

Furthermore, a new factor in the development of the Chinese market is underway with the increasing sales of works on the internet. With the help of « Yidian China », the Beijing Poly International Auction Company has started public online sales, which has also stimulated offline auction sales. China is back in the race, with a preference for its own artists. The New York results expected in November will tell us more about the progress of the renewed competition between China and the West…