The $195 million Shot Sage Blue Marilyn helped push Andy Warhol back into the top spot for overall market share in the New York auction cycle this May. For many years, Warhol was the main driver of the Contemporary art market. Sales of his work helped push the Post-War and Contemporary auctions center stage in these events; however, the Warhol market has been in hibernation for the last several years as fewer high value works have come to auction. That changed last year. This year brought out the Marilyn and even though it sold for a price below expectations, in a single stroke the auction record for a Warhol is now nearly double what it once was. Together with another 37 works, Warhol put up $331 million in sales at an average price of $9.2 million, not including the collaboration between Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat sold from the Ammann collection. That accounted for 11.7% of the money spent during New York’s marquee sales.
Perhaps more impressive was the 10.9% market share Claude Monet’s work represented. Across ten lots with a stunning average lot value of $31 million, Monet’s work totaled $310 million. This included the nearly $76 million paid for Anne Bass’s painting of London’s Houses of Parliament and her nymphéas that was sold for $56 million plus a Venetian scene that made a hair’s breadth more. After two years of rising prices for Monet, this season might signal the top as most of these works sold at the low end of the estimate range.
Even with only 6.9% of the market share, Pablo Picasso remains a centerpiece of the art market. This season there were only two major works on offer. A surrealist painting sold just below the $60 million whisper number and the Met’s deaccessioned bronze buste had solid but not unrestrained bidding. The 32 works sold made a total of $194 million for an average price of $6 million.
There were only four works by Mark Rothko in these sales but such is the value associated with his art that they made $172 million to comprise 6.1% of the dollars spent and an average price of $43 million.
Cy Twombly had 11 works ranging from small studies on paper that sold for five figures to sculptures and a blackboard painting. Altogether these works made $107 million giving Twombly 3.8% market share and an average price of $9.7 million.
Like Warhol, the market for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work this cycle was dominated at by a single painting. That $85 million work combined with 8 other paintings (a major work having been withdrawn from the sales) to create a total of $98 million and an average price of $10.9 million which was good enough for a 3.5% market share.
The rest of the market share table held only a few surprise names. Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Edgar Degas, Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Francis Bacon are familiar names that dominate value in the art market. Emanuel Leutze is not. Like several of those other names, a single work accounted for most of the artist’s presence in the market. For Leutze, that was a $45 million version of his most famous work. Below Leutze in the market share tables were Robert Ryman, helped out by the presence of a high-value work in the Ammann collection, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, boosted by the sale of a dual portrait that included painter Berthe Morisot, Philip Guston, Alberto Giacometti, who had 10 out of 11 works sold but only two of moderately high value, and Georg Baselitz whose work set a new record when the Hardie Beloff collection was sold.
The remaining 690 artists, of which only 635 had works that sold, comprised 30% of the value of the auctions which is still a formidable $860 million.