The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 – So Far

Luxury / Art

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 – So Far

Inspiring fierce bidding battles and rapidly rising price tags, here are the artists who have proved themselves to be the auction block heavyweights so far this year.

Written by Renyi Lim on 27 July 2017

It isn’t just familiar names like Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Paul Gauguin who capture the lion’s share of the art world’s attention on the auction block these days. The first half of 2017 has already produced a significant number of record-breaking auction results at breathtaking prices, leaving WEALTH to wonder what the remainder of the year will bring.

While we’re waiting for the next round of auctions to begin, we would like to take a look back and highlight the highest-earning artists at auction so far this year:

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled WEALTH

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat’s name has been on everyone’s lips in 2017. The American painter smashed the record for the most expensive US artwork ever to be sold at auction in May, when Sotheby’s sold his 1982 work, Untitled, for US$110.5 million. This price tag made the painting the second most expensive contemporary work ever auctioned, leading other art collectors to search for more of the neo-expressionist, primitivist artist’s work. Those with shallower pockets need not despair: Christie’s auctioned his 1981 piece, La Hara, in the same month for a slightly more modest US$34.9 million.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Gustav Klimt Bauerngarten WEALTH

Gustav Klimt

Considered “a masterpiece of Viennese fin-de-siècle art,” Bauerngarten was painted during the golden period of Klimt’s career – which might be why it went for US$59.3 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in March (the third highest price ever paid for an artwork at an auction in Europe). The sale marked the first time in over two decades that this particular work – a shimmering array of poppies, daisies, zinnia, and roses inspired by the countryside gardens of the Mayr-Hof – had been offered for auction.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Constantin Brancusi La muse endormie WEALTH

Constantin Brancusi

Romanian sculptor and pioneering modernist Brancusi – once titled “the great patriarch of modern sculpture” – brought in an impressive US$57.4 million with the sale of La muse endormie at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in May. One of only six bronze casts of the original marble version (this cast was created in 1913), it explores the artist’s fascination with the theme of sleep and marks the first of his series of egg-shaped sculptures, distilling the form of a sleeping woman’s head into an almost perfect oval.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Cy Twombly Leda and the Swan WEALTH

Cy Twombly

Residing unseen within a private collection for over 25 years, Twombly’s 1962 work, Leda and the Swan, was a star of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York. Depicting a heady mixture of sex and violence, the painting is the sister of a work with the same title held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it remains one of the most popular exhibits. Owing to the fact that Leda and the Swan had never been offered at auction before and counted only two private owners, it was sold for US$52.3 million.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer WEALTH

Francis Bacon

Another high-selling lot never to have been offered for auction before this year was Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer from 1963, which earned US$51.8 million on the block. The oil on canvas triptych depicts the artist’s long-time muse and lover, a petty thief from London’s East End who also features in many other of Bacon’s sought-after works. The work is one of just five triptychs of Dyer that the artist painted on this intimate scale, and is unique for its omission of Dyer’s characteristic white shirt and suit.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Chen Rong Six Dragons WEALTH

Chen Rong

The only Asian artist to feature on this year’s list so far, the thirteenth-century, Southern Song Dynasty painter Chen Rong fetched US$49 million at Chrstie’s Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum sale in March. His 4-metre-long handscroll painting, Six Dragons, is a fine example of his renowned depictions of dragons, which are symbolic of water in China. Its previous owners include Emperor Qianlong – the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China – with evidence of his marks of ownership on the piece.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Pablo Picasso Femme assise, robe bleue WEALTH

Pablo Picasso

Never one to be outdone (well, it is Picasso), the Spanish artist performed extremely well at two separate Christie’s auctions in June: Femme assise, robe bleue far exceeded its initial estimate when it sold for US$45 million in New York, while Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) went for US$44.4 million in London. Both works depict one of Picasso’s lovers and muses: Femme assise, robe bleue is a portrait of French photographer Dora Maar, while Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) pays homage to the golden-haired, sensuous Marie-Thérèse Walter.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Wassily Kandinsky Murnau – landschaft mit grünem haus WEALTH

Wassily Kandinsky

An exciting evening at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in June saw the auction record for Russian artist and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky’s work being smashed not once, but twice. Murnau – landschaft mit grünem haus (Murnau – landscape with green house) was sold for US$26.6 million – just over US$3 million more than the previous record – but shortly afterwards, Bild mit weissen Linien (Painting with white lines) was sold for a staggering US$41.6 million. Both paintings ­– created within four years of each other – demonstrate the way Kandinsky’s style shifted from vibrant expressionism to a lyrical form of abstraction.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Francesco Guardi The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi WEALTH

Francesco Guardi

Ambitious, innovative, and a masterpiece of eighteenth-century European art, Guardi’s The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi netted US$33.9 this month at Christie’s Old Masters Evening Sale in London. Prominently signed and outstandingly well preserved, this was only the second time in history that the painting had been offered for sale, when it was acquired in 1768 by an English MP, Chaloner Arcedeckne. The work – created at the height of the artist’s career in the mid-1760s – boasts a rich exhibition history and recently appeared at the National Gallery, London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The Top-Selling Artists At Auction In 2017 Peter Doig Rosedale WEALTH

Peter Doig

The top lot of Phillips’ May Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in New York was Doig’s Rosedale, which eventually sold for US$28.8 million, setting a world auction record for Doig himself and for a living British artist. Painted in 1991 – a formative year in Doig’s career – the work embodies the Danish concept of hygge, lending a sense of domestic cosiness to a grand Rosedale manor in Toronto’s ravine and exemplifying the artist’s ability to convey emotional expression.


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