Contemporary Drawing



Every fortnight Artprice provides you with a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. This week we present the top ten auction results in the field of Contemporary Drawing.

Drawing is a medium that is generally considered affordable (in 2011, 57% of drawings sold at auction fetched less than $5,000). However, prices in the drawings segment have not only been stimulated by Old Master drawings (world record in December 2009 for RAPHAEL’s Head of a muse which fetched $42.7m at Christie’s) but also by a number of excellent results from Post-war and Contemporary signatures. Moreover, in our Top 10 this week, eight are Chinese artists!

Top 10 : best auction results in the field of Contemporary Drawing

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 CAI Guoqiang $8487600 Untitled (2002) 11/25/2007 (Christie’s HONG KONG)
2 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $5200000 Eroica I (1988) 05/10/2011 (Sotheby’s NY)
3 LIU Chunxi $3311000 Divinity 12/20/2010 (Beijing CNTC Auction)
4 LIN Xiao $2805000 Figures (2005) 11/26/2006 (Zhong Hong Xin Auction)
5 CAI Guoqiang $2322000 Project for Extraterrestrails… 10/07/2007 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
6 Julie MEHRETU $2000000 The Seven Acts of Mercy 11/09/2010 (Sotheby’s NY)
7 CAI Guoqiang $1930500 Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky… 10/04/2008 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
8 LIU Chunxi $1806000 Animals and lotus 12/20/2010 (Beijing CNTC Auction)
9 LIU Chunxi $1505000 Animals 12/20/2010 (Beijing CNTC Auction)
10 LIU Chunxi $1505000 Guanyin goddess 12/20/2010 (Beijing CNTC Auction)

Cai Guoqiang

On October 2008, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presented a large ink and canon powder fresco (230 x 620 cm) by CAI Guoqiang entitled Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky : People. Although the piece fetched nearly two million US dollars, the price was still far behind his all-time record of $8.4m for Untitled, a series of 14 drawings sold on 25 November 2007 by Christie’s Hong Kong. In fact, 6 of the same 14 drawings were offered at Christie’s Hong Kong on 26 November 2011 in panels containing 2 drawings each. Of the three panels offered, only one found a buyer at $641,500.
The artist’s third best result was for a drawing in ink and canon powder on paper entitled Project for Extraterrestrails No.10, Project to Extend the Great… which fetched the equivalent of $2.3m.
Although his market is very international, Asia accounts for 68% of his volume of transactions and the Anglophone markets for about 27%.

Liu Chunxi
Aged just 30, this young artist is unknown in the West, but has already generated 7-figure results (in USD) at auctions, and on 20 December 2010 LIU Chunxi works generated a total of over $13m at Beijing CNTC International Auction! On that day no less than eight colour drawings on silk fetched million-plus results with a record equivalent to $3.3m for Divinity (141 x 242 cm, Ұ22m) – that takes 4th place in our Top this week – while his Animals and Lotus fetched $1.8m. Animals and Guanyin Goddess, which both fetched $1.5m, share the 10th position in this Top 10.
Although these works have already travelled in Asia as part of exhibitions in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Malaisia, Chunxi’s market still remains very local.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
On 10 May 2011, Jean-Michel BASQUIAT’s Eroica I fetched a superb figure of $5.2m vs. a high estimate of $4.5m at Sotheby’s New York (in 2000, the same work sold for $580,000 at the same auctioneer). It was not of course the artist’s best result (16th best in fact), but it was the best result for one of his drawings. In 2010, Basquiat’s drawings generated a total of $3.1m.
Basquiat is very much appreciated in Anglophone markets which generate 91% of his auction revenue (65% in the USA and 26% in the UK). France accounts for just 6% of his annual auction revenue.

Julie Mehretu
2010 was an exceptional year for the Ethiopian artist Julie MEHRETU who signed three record results during the year including $2m for The Seven Acts of Mercy (Sotheby’s New York, 9 November 2010) giving the artist 7th place in this ranking. The general public has also shown a strong interest in the work of this artist since the Guggenheim Museum in New York gave her a solo exhibition in 2010 (Grey Area, 14 May 2010 – 6 October 2010) and, since April 2011, two of her works are on display at the Punta della Dogana in Venice as part of the Eloge du doute exhibition.

At the 26 November 2006 sale orchestrated by Zhong Hong Xin International Auction Co, Beijing, LIN Xiao signed four results at over $23 842 each, including a record result of $2.8m for Figures, a work composed of 108 drawings. This was the artist’s first result above the million dollar line.
Figures is nevertheless still relatively new to the secondary market, and his sales are, for the time being, still very local.