Art: These 10 paintings sold for almost US$1b

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 23, 2017.
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Given the runaway success of one painting in particular, it’s kind of unfair to compare the top 10 lots of New York’s auction mega-week: Approximately US$2.3 billion (RM9.48 billion) worth of Impressionist, modern, postwar, and contemporary art was sold in five days, yes, but the numbers are skewed pretty dramatically by Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.

Having sold for US$450.3 million at Christie’s on Nov 15, the painting, rediscovered in 2005, represents around 19% of the value of the week’s overall sales.

Remove that Da Vinci from the equation and you still have solid numbers — up more than 100% from last year’s auctions, which tallied around US$1 billion — representative of a confident, perhaps even a booming market.

However, the Da Vinci has been sold. Also, from a list of 10 paintings that gets very close to totalling US$1 billion on its own, the final tally adds up to US$877,721,500.

Breaking down the top 10, there is a healthy list of familiar names: Picasso, Van Gogh, Leger, Warhol, Rothko and Chagall.

Tellingly, though, the top three lots were all painted before World War I. In total, postwar and contemporary evening auctions — US$310.3 million at Sotheby’s and US$785.9 million at Christie’s — may have dwarfed the Impressionist and modern evening sales of US$269.6 million for Sotheby’s and US$479.3 million at Christie’s respectively, but the biggest trophies were old, rather than new. — Bloomberg


Here is the top 10.

  1. US$450,312,500 (RM1.86 billion) for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, c. 1500.
  2. US$81,312,500 (RM335,007,500 million) for Vincent van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un Champ, 1889.
  3. US$70,062,500 (RM288,657,500 million) for Fernand Leger’s Contraste de Formes, 1913.
  4. US$60,875,000 (RM250,805,000 million) for Andy Warhol’s Sixty Last Suppers, 1986.
  5. US$46,437,500 (RM191,322,500 million) for Cy Twombly’s Untitled, 2005.
  6. US$38,614,000 (RM159,089,680 million) for Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966.
  7. US$36,875,000 (RM151,925,000 million) for Pablo Picasso’s Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline), 1954.
  8. US$32,404,500 (RM133,506,540 million) for Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1972.
  9. US$32,375,000 (RM133,385,000 million) for Mark Rothko’s Saffron, 1957.
  10. US$28,453,000 (RM117,226,360 million) for Marc Chagall’s Les Amoureux, 1928.