Key figures and best auction results in the first quarter of 2024


The art market began 2024 with unusual calm. The auction stats for the first quarter show a high-end market operating at an even slower pace than in the last quarter of last year. Artprice’s latest Annual Art Market Report discusses the causes and effects of this trend. Today, as we move into spring, we can sketch a first general assessment of the health of the art market through four key figures.

$1.3 billion – Total global fine art auction turnover in Q1 2024 worldwide. This total is down -36% compared with Q1 2023.

162,000 – The number of lots sold during the first quarter of 2024, a decrease of only -1% versus the same year-earlier period.

-79% – The contraction in fine art auction turnover hammered in France: $17 million in Q1 2024 compared with $82 million in Q1 2023.

142 – The number of 7-digit results (in dollars, fees included) counted by Artprice during Q1 2024 worldwide. This compares with 261 in Q1 2023.

The best results of Q1

In the absence of Old Master works sufficiently exhilarating to conquer new heights in January, the 10 best results of the first quarter were all hammered in London in March, six at Christie’s and four at Sotheby’s. They rewarded works by emblematic Modern, Post-War and Contemporary artists, with the exception of a rarer signature in this type of ranking.

Christie’s sale on March 7 generated the four best results of the start of the year so far including $43 million for René Magritte’s L’Ami Intime, $25.1 million for Francis BACONs Landscape near Malabata, Tangier (1963), and nearly $24 million for California, one of David Hockney’s earliest paintings (setting the stage for his most renowned works later on). Sotheby’s March 6 sale generated the next four best results with works by Picasso, Monet, Signac and Bacon.

Seven artists accounted for the 10 best results of Q1 2024:

  1. René MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
  2. Francis BACON (1909-1992)
  3. David HOCKNEY (1937)
  4. Claude MONET (1840-1926)
  5. Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973)
  6. Paul SIGNAC (1863-1935)
  7. Laurence Stephen LOWRY (1887-1976)


Laurence Stephen LOWRY: 10th place

Much less well-known than major signatures like Monet or Picasso, the British artist Laurence Stephen Lowry stands out as a surprising signature in this ranking. But while Lowry may have a much lower profile, he remains one of the most popular British artists of the 20th century, celebrated for his unique works depicting the industrial landscapes of Salford, Manchester and other towns in the East Midlands.

Exhibited many times, notably at the Tate Gallery, one of his major compositions, Sunday Afternoon (1957) fetched $8 million during a Christie’s sale on March 20. This result, not far behind his current record of $9.1 million (set in 2011), reflects the constantly renewed enthusiasm of collectors for art described as ‘naive’. It is also worth pointing out that the previous year (2022) Douanier Rousseau, a self-taught painter who was much admired by the avant-garde artists of the 20th century, set a staggering record of 43.5 million dollars for Les Flamands (1910) at twice its minimum estimate, giving Rousseau a new auction record ten times higher than his previous one.

However, unlike Douanier Rousseau and despite the naive appearance of his pictorial style, Laurence Stephen Lowry was not an autodidact. He took evening classes in painting and drawing at the Salford School of Art as well as at the Municipal College of Art, where he benefited from the teachings of the French impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette. Lowry, who died in 1976 at the age of 88, left behind a considerable artistic legacy consisting of approximately 1,000 paintings and more than 8,000 drawings.

Shortly after his death, a major retrospective of his work presented at the Royal Academy in London became one of the museum’s most popular exhibitions devoted to a 20th century artist. Another retrospective, Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, paid tribute to his work in 2014 at the Tate Britain. During that exhibition, Sotheby’s in London hosted a sale titled Lowry: The A.J. Thompson Collection in which one of his most prized paintings, Piccadilly Circus, London (1960) was estimated at more than $8.4 million.

Top 10 artworks at auction (T1 2024)

René Magritte in 1st place

While Lowry takes the tenth place in our global ranking of artists by their annual auction turnover for the first quarter of 2024, René Magritte has a clear first place. With auction turnover exceeding $64 million in just three months – notably thanks to a spectacular result of $43 million for his emblematic work L’ami intime – Magritte is way ahead of emblematic figures like Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. The March sales saw the dispersal of four paintings and eight drawings by Magritte, and none of the remaining unsold. Demand for this famous Belgian Surrealist artist appears to be at its peak, confirming his position among the most sought-after and valued artists on the current market.

Indeed, the market for Magritte’s work is currently enjoying a boom, capping a meteoric rise in prices for his works over the past two decades. According to Artprice’s price index, the value of his paintings has increased by more than 600% over a period of approximately twenty years. His work appears to have gained in value most notably about two years ago, following the sale of a painting from his “Empire of Lights” series for the impressive sum of $79.3 million. The painting added over $19 million to its pre-sale high estimate, reflecting a sharp increase in enthusiasm and demand for his work.