Top results in Contemporary drawing

[06 Jul 2018]

Following our ranking of best results for prints a fortnight ago, this Friday Top article takes another look at the best auction results for Contemporary artworks on paper, ranking the 10 best results over the last 12 months.

Rank Artist Artwork Price ($) Sale
1 QIU Hanqiao (1958) Mountain rhyme $5,751,438 07/22/2017, Hangzhou Jiashi Auction Hangzhou
2 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Untitled (1982) $5,151,614  06/26/2018, Sotheby’s London
3 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Untitled (Figure Jmb #1) (1982) $3,657,866 03/07/2018, Sotheby’s London
4 QIU Hanqiao (1958) Cloud disppear and green mountain $3,450,863 07/22/2017, Hangzhou Jiashi Auction Hangzhou
5 Julie MEHRETU (1970) Untitled 2 $2,535,000 05/17/2018,  Sotheby’s New York
6 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Untitled (1982) $2,438,849 10/06/2017,  Christie’s London
7 QIU Hanqiao (1958) Homeland dream $2,108,861 07/22/2017, Hangzhou Jiashi Auction Hangzhou
8 Mark GROTJAHN (1968) « Untitled (Full Colored Butterfly 761) » (2008) $1,815,000  11/17/2017, Sotheby’s New York
9 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Untitled (1983) $1,504,475  03/08/2018, Phillips London
10 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Untitled (1983)  $,455,000 11/17/2017, Sotheby’s New York
copyright © 2018 

Five works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in the top 10

The prices of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s drawings have posted phenomenal growth: +2,000% in 20 years! Last year, sales of his works on paper generated more than $26 million, representing 9% of his annual business volume. His best drawings now fetch several million dollars. Two have even crossed the $10 million threshold (Untitled (Head of Madman) fetched $12 million in 2013 and Untitled (1982) fetched $13.6 million in 2015). No new record to report over the last 12 months… but a superb result at $5.1 million for a 1982 drawing for which Sotheby’s was not expecting more than $3.3 million.
When Basquiat died in 1988, his best works sold below $100,000, even though galloping inflation on his works had already begun. Nowadays $100,000 only gets you a small drawing, usually executed with a felt pen, with little or none of the expressive colour that usually makes his works much more expensive.

Another American in this ranking is Mark Grotjahn, an abstract artist discovered by the Blum & Poe gallery when he was 30 (a decade younger than Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool or Richard Prince). Several important museums were interested in his paintings in the early 2000s and thereafter his prices rocketed. First appearing at auction in 2006, the prices of his works have risen exponentially ever since (+607%). In 2007, when he joined the Gagosian Gallery, four paintings sold at auction for a total of $1.8 million.

His presence in this ranking is no surprise. Impressive auction results were already making art market headlines this time last year when he ranked 37th in the overall ranking of Contemporary artists by auction turnover for H1 2017. With $32 million, his total exceeded those of David Hockney ($24 million), Damien Hirst ($19 million) and Jeff Koons ($12 million). A few months ago, a work by Mark Grotjahn beat its high estimate of a million dollars! The large colour pencil drawing (Full Colored Butterfly 761) carrying an estimate of $600,000 – $800,000 fetched $1.8 million at Sotheby’s New York on 17 November 2017. A superb result, but still short of his record for a drawing set in November 2016 with French Grey Fan 10-90% Butterfly With Warm Gray 90% Between which sold for $1.87 million, also at Sotheby’s New York.

The Chinese drawing segment is still dynamic

Unknown on the Western market, QIU Hanqiao fetches enormous prices in China. His work in India ink deals with the classic themes in traditional Chinese art such as man’s relationship to nature. In 2013, the Poly Art Museum in Beijing organised a major solo exhibition of his work. Since then, demand from Chinese collectors has exploded. In 2016, his works generated an auction turnover of $7.5 million. The following year it was $11.5 million. This new ‘star’ of the Chinese market takes three places in our Top 10; the highest at $5.7 million for his work Mountain Rhyme sold during the summer of 2017 in Hangzhou.

It is also worth mentioning a second Chinese artist who just misses this top 10. WANG Mingming is from the same generation as Qiu Hanqiao. His work is slightly better known outside China thanks to the London gallerist Andrew James. But secondary market demand for his work is limited to China and Hong Kong, which account for 76% and 24% respectively of his auction turnover in the last 12 months. It is therefore a 100% ‘domestic’ market – like QIU Hanqiao – but one that has driven his price index at a breathtaking pace: $100 invested 10 years ago would be worth an average of $700 today… on the Chinese market exclusively.