Contemporary paintings: the Top 10 results in 2010


Every fortnight Artprice posts a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The topic of today’s TOP article is the 10 best auction results in 2010 in the Contemporary paintings segment.

In sharp contrast to the Old Masters and Modern art segments, not one Contemporary painting broke through the $10m threshold in 2010. In fact the last Contemporary painting to fetch an 8-figure dollar result was Jean-Michel BASQUIAT’s Untitled (Boxer) which fetched $12m on 12 November 2008 at Christie’s. In 2010, the best Contemporary painting result was just under $7m for CHEN Yifei’s String Quartet ($6.9m) at Christie’s, Hong Kong, on 29 May.
Highly sought-after, Contemporary paintings represented 67.4% of global income from Contemporary art (€296.4m) in the period July 2009 – June 2010.

Top 10 : best auctions results in 2010 by contemporary paintings

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 CHEN Yifei $6 933 599 String quartet 05/29/10 (Christie’s Hong Kong)
2 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $6 400 000 Untitled (Stardust) 05/12/10 (Sotheby’s NY)
3 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $6 250 000 Dos Cabezas 11/10/10 (Christie’s NY)
4 Richard PRINCE $5 700 000 Nurse in Hollywood #4 05/13/10 (Phillips de Pury NY)
5 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $5 500 000 Riddle Me this, Batman 11/09/10 (Sotheby’s NY)
6 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $5 200 000 Self Portrait as a Heel 05/11/10 (Christie’s NY)
7 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $5 100 000 Untitled (1987) 11/10/10 (Christie’s NY)
8 Jeff KOONS $4 521 300 Loopy 06/30/10 (Christie’s London)
9 Christopher WOOL $4 400 000 Blue Fool 05/11/10 (Christie’s NY)
10 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $4 200 000 Man Struck by Lightning-2 … 05/11/10 (Christie’s NY)

Dominance of American and Chinese figurative painting
In 2010, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s price index recovered a little of the shine it lost in 2009. In fact, Basquiat took first place in the Top 10 Contemporary artists by auction revenue with no less than 18 million-plus results in 2010 (vs. 10 in 2009), of which six were above the $4.2m line: Untitled (Stardust) sold for $6.4m on 12 May 2010 at three times Sotheby’s estimated price range. The other five sold at the May and November sessions of Christie’s in New York: Dos Cabezas ($6.4m), Riddle Me this, Batman ($6.25m), Self Portrait as a Heel ($5.2m), Untitled (1987) ($5.1m) and Man Struck by Lightning-2 Witnesses which was tenth in this ranking at $4.2m.

The best result of 2010 for a Contemporary painting was $6.9m for Chen Yifei’s hyper-realist String Quartet, which fetched 10 times its price range on 29 May 2010 at Christie’s in Hong Kong. With this new record under his belt, Chen Yifei posted annual auction revenue of over $12m from just sixteen lots.

Despite a difficult year for the American Richard PRINCE whose auction revenue was halved compared with the July 2008 – June 2009 period, his work Nurse in Hollywood #4 fetched the equivalent of $5.7m at Phillips de Pury, New York, on 13 May 2010.

While 2010 was also a lean year for Jeff KOONS (his revenue from July 2009 to June 2010 was €5m down on the previous year), the artist set a new record for a painting when his Loopy fetching $4.5m on 30 June 2010 at Christie’s in London. On the back of that result, Koons generated 35% of his 2010 auction revenue from paintings (vs. 12% normally).

Although a considerably less speculative signature than American peers, Christopher WOOL takes 9th place in this ranking with a new personal auction record on 11 May 2010 for Blue Fool which fetched twice its estimate at $4.4m at Christie’s New York.

Painting remains the most sought-after field in art: the number of contemporary paintings sold at auctions was 3 times higher than the number of drawings, 4.5 times higher than the number of photographs and 5.7 times higher than the number of sculptures. The top 10 most expensive Contemporary artists generate 35.5% of the segment’s annual revenue alone.