The Top 10 from the Dorotheum auction house

[10 Apr 2015]


Fridays are the best! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you a themed auction ranking. This week, the leader of information on the Art Market discusses the ten most costly sales of 2014 at the Dorotheum auction house.

Austrian auction house Dorotheum is the oldest in the world. It was founded in 1707, nearly 40 years before the birth of Sotheby’s (1744) and 60 years before Christie’s (1766). With its international network forged from more than 300 years of history and 600 annual sales, Dorotheum presented more than 8,000 works of art in its rooms last year and sold 4,200 lots, generating sales totalling USD 57.9m in 2014 (and a significant annual no-sales rate of 47%). Today it is ranked 20th among the world’s most high-performing auction houses, behind the behemoths such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips, Bonhams and Artcurial and 14 Chinese auction houses.

The Top 10 from the Dorotheum auction house
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Frans VERBEECK $3,320,200 Der Narrenhandel 2014-10-21 Dorotheum VIENNE
2 Lucio FONTANA $1,277,865 Concetto Spaziale (1957) 2014-05-20 Dorotheum VIENNE
3 Sean SCULLY $1,105,106 Lucia (1992-1996) 2014-05-20 Dorotheum VIENNE
4 Robert INDIANA $1,000,256 NUMBERS ONE through ZERO (1978/2003) 2014-11-26 Dorotheum VIENNE
5 Martin KIPPENBERGER $895,752 Ohne Titel, aus der Serie “Fred the Frog” (1989/90) 2014-11-26 Dorotheum VIENNE
6 Lucio FONTANA $783,783 Concetto spaziale, Attese (65- 66 T 21) 2014-11-26 Dorotheum VIENNE
7 Lucio FONTANA $770,558 Concetto Spaziale (1955) 2014-05-20 Dorotheum VIENNE
8 Paolo SCHEGGI $674,581 Zone Riflesse (1965) 2014-05-20 Dorotheum VIENNE
9 Sigmar POLKE $597,168 Ohne Titel 2014-11-26 Dorotheum VIENNE
10 Peter Paul RUBENS $593,400 Die Heilige Familie mit der Heiligen Anna und dem Johannesknaben 2014-04-09 Dorotheum VIENNE
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Dorotheum was recently recognized for the auction sale of more than USD 3.3m of a monumental canvas by Frans Verbeeck. Rare in auction houses and confidential, this ancient Flemish master holds a new record with his human satyr measuring nearly two metres sold by Dorotheum. Less expensive was his last canvas put on the auction block, which did not surpass USD 22,800 (Antwerp in 2005). The auction company – whom the Top 10 closes on a canvas by Rubens – displays a solid network for ancient masters, but not only this…as Dorotheum takes pride in the progress made in its contemporary art department. In 2014 it became known as the best vintage house in its long history in the industry, established by last November’s history-making session (EUR 14 million for its contemporary sales). Indeed, among the 10 strongest gavel strikes of 2014, four sounded on 26 November 2014 to purchase contemporary “classics” of international stature, namely Robert Indiana, Martin Kippenberger, Sigmar Polke and Lucio Fontana.


Dorotheum’s power is demonstrated through contemporary sales of the most popular names of the moment, for example, the million-dollar sale of the canvas Lucia from Sean Scully. This USD 1.1 m strike of the gavel is the artist’s second-highest. This is not insignificant, as his best results were typically achieved in London and New York. Sean Scully, who’s riding high in the European art scene, also claimed some of the most costly sales for the French auction house Artcurial in 2014. Likewise for German artist Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997), who died prematurely in Vienna at the age of 44. All records for Kippenberger date from 2014, starting with that of New York where a canvas sold for USD 20m last November (Untitled, 1988, Christie’s New York, 12 November 2014). Concerning Austria, Dorotheum sold its first work valued at one million (including fees), at double its top estimation (untitled canvas from the series Fred the Frog). The German Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) is also riding high. Eleven of his works were snapped up for nearly a million dollars in 2014. Dorotheum achieved, as did Kippenberger, its Austrian record last November (a bid of USD 600,000 and more than USD 730,000 including fees).


These sales, paired with three costly sales for Lucio Fontana and a million-dollar strike of the gavel for Robert Indiana, testify to Dorotheum’s solid presence in Europe’s art scene. Vienna draws bigger contemporary works than Paris, and at times, even draws works as important as those found in London.