Here Are the 10 Most Expensive Works Sold at Auction in 2022—and Why They Fetched the Prices They Did

0
6

What does it say about the upper reaches of the international art market—we’re talking about bonafide trophy-hunting territory—when the most expensive work sold this year had a whopping $80 million price tag?

Consider that in 2020, just two of the top 10 lots fetched prices above $50 million each. Last year, thanks in large part to the storied collection of divorced couple Harry and Linda Macklowe, of the top lots sold for well above the $50 million mark. Now, that bar has been bumped up again as the low end of the top ten for 2022 is the $80 million mark, with all other lots selling above that. The lots brought a cumulative $1.1 billion, which is actually down a notch from the $1.2 billion comparable total for 2021.

This year the auction firepower came from the unprecedented collection assembled by Paul Allen, the late billionaire co-founder of Microsoft whose collection added a stunning $1.6 billion to Christie’s bottom line. That’s roughly the equivalent of an entire spring or fall season at all three major auction houses. Five works from the Allen collection each brought over $100 million and account for roughly half this entire list. Just four works in our top ten are from the Allen collection.

Read on to find out which works smashed expectations and grabbed headlines this year.

10. René Magritte, (1961)

Rene Magritte, L’empire des lumières (1961) . Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Rene Magritte, L’empire des lumières (1961). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

 

Price: $79.8 million

When: March 2

Where: Sotheby’s London

Why: Sotheby’s deems the artist’s “les lumieres” series as “among the most iconic images of twentieth-century art.” Alongside Magritte’s ) and his bowler-hatted men, “they are his most important images with an influence that stretches far beyond Surrealist circles.”

Adding to the allure, this particular work had never been sold before, not even on the primary market, as it was acquired directly from the artist in 1961. The final price with premium was well over its unpublished estimate of $60 million, also smashing the artist’s previous record of $26.8 million, set in November 2018.

Sotheby’s pulled out all the stops to market the painting, transforming the facade of its London headquarters into a duplicate of the work. The iconic picture was from a series of 17 paintings and came from the collection of Anne-Marie Crowet Gillion, who modeled for the artist and was the daughter of one of his most important patrons.

9. Jean-Michel Basquiat, (1982)

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled [detail] (1982), sold for $85,000,000 at Phillips "20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale," May 18, 2022. Image courtesy Phillips.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, [detail] (1982), sold for $85 million at Phillips “20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale,” May 18, 2022. Image courtesy Phillips.

Price: $85 million

When: May 18

Where: Phillips New York

Why: The marquee lot of Phillips’s May evening auction was an untitled work by Jean-Michel Basquiat from the so-called “golden year” of 1982. The sprawling canvas, measuring over 16 feet wide and eight feet tall, was consigned by the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. The price marked the third-highest result for the artist and a 50 percent increase from the last time the painting was sold in 2016. Maezawa acquired it from Christie’s in May 2016 for $57.3 million, when it was sold by New York collector-dealer Adam Lindemann.

8. Andy Warhol, (1963)

Andy Warhol, White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) (1963). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Andy Warhol, White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) (1963). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Price: $84.5 million

When: November 16

Where: Sotheby’s New York

Why: The biggest Warhol of the fall season, , was a late arrival to the November lineup at Sotheby’s. The 1963 silkscreen was shrouded in mystery, as Artnet News’s Katya Kazakina wrote. The consignor bought it through Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG in 1996. Some market-watchers linked the piece to the Martinos shipping family, which is known for their Warhol holdings and close ties to Doris Ammann.

The painting is based on a lurid photograph that ran in an article about a horrific car accident published in magazine on June 3, 1963, and deserving of the old adage “if it bleeds, it leads.” This is the first time in nearly ten years that one of Warhol’s “Death and Disaster” paintings has come to market. It is now the third most expensive Warhol sold at auction.

7. Lucian Freud, (1981–83)

Lucian Freud, Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981-1983). Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2022.

Lucian Freud, Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981–83). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2022.

Price: $86.3 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: (1981–83), exceeded the previous auction record for Freud (set in 2015 when the 1994 painting sold for $56 million) by more than $20 million. It hailed from the Paul Allen collection at Christie’s. Allen acquired it for what now seems to be a very reasonable $5.8 million at Sotheby’s New York in 1998.

6. Gustav Klimt, (1903)

Gustav Klimt,  Birch Forest (1903). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Gustav Klimt,  Birch Forest (1903). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Price: $104.6 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: In November 2006, was one of four works offered at Christie’s following their restitution to the heirs of Austrian sugar magnate and collector Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and his wife, Adele. The most famous of the group, , was snapped up by billionaire collector and Neue Galerie founder Ronald Lauder for a reported $135 million and later became the subject of the film , starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. The remaining works achieved a combined figure of $192.7 million, against a high estimate of $140 million, and accounted for about 40 percent of the overall total at Christie’s that night.

At the time, Paul Allen bought for $40.3 million. Now, at $104.6 million, which is two and a half times more than it went for 16 years ago, the painting has become the most expensive Klimt sold at auction.

5. Paul Gauguin, (1889)

Paul Gauguin, Maternité II (1899). Image courtesy Christie's.

Paul Gauguin, Maternité II (1899). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Price: $105.7 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: The $105.7 million price realized at the Allen sale for this rare Tahitian-era work was more than twice the $39.2 million he bought it for at Sotheby’s in 2004. Gauguin’s auction record, set in 2006, is $40 million, although his works have reportedly sold privately for as much as $300 million. Similar to the Klimt, this is now the top-selling work at auction for Gauguin.

4. Vincent van Gogh, (1888)

Vincent van Gogh, Verger avec cyprès (1888). Image courtesy Christie's.

Vincent van Gogh, Verger avec cyprès (1888). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Price: $117.2 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: This result says a lot about both the Van Gogh market and one of the biggest art market bubbles in history that burst in the late 1980s, when the Impressionist and modern art market imploded after years of frothy, speculative buying.

That is because the previous high for the artist was achieved more than three decades ago, in 1990, when sold for a then-unheard-of $82.5 million to Japanese buyer Ryoei Saito He later ran into financial trouble and was arrested for bribing a politician over a property deal. At the time, Dr, Gachet became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, a distinction it maintained for many years afterward. That year, the auction volume for Van Gogh was $110.7 million. Four years later, in 1994, it was zero.

Now after years of ascent and robust growth, that price was finally eclipsed with Verger avec cyprès, and the market for Van Gogh has officially been reset with this rare landscape that Paul Allen acquired privately from collectors Charles Shipman and Joan Whitney Payson in June 1998.

 

3. Paul Cézanne, (1888–90)

Paul Cezanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (ca. 1888-1890). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Paul Cezanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (ca. 1888–90). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Price: $137.8 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why:  “When are you going to find another Cézanne ?” dealer Christophe van de Weghe asked Artnet News following the Allen collection evening sale last month. He called the work one of several incredible opportunities for people trying to build top-flight collections.

As Katya Kazakina reported, Allen was not afraid to open his wallet when he saw something he wanted. He bought this particular work for $38.5 million at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg in May 2001. Now, two decades later, the painting fetched nearly four times that amount. Although only two people competed for the picture, its $137.8 million price tag easily shattered the artist’s auction record of $60.5 million, which was set in 1999.

2. Georges Seurat, (1888)

Georges Seurat, Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) (1888). Image courtesy Christie's.

Georges Seurat, Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) (1888). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Price: $149.2 million

When: November 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: Similar to the manner in which the Van Gogh and Gauguin markets were recalibrated with Paul Allen collection offerings, it was the same story for Georges Seurat although to perhaps an even more dramatic effect. The $149.2 million achieved for this work is more than four times the previous $35.2 million achieved for , an oil of the famous subject matter, sans people, that was sold in 1999 at Sotheby’s New York.

Of the current work, according to Christie’s catalogue entry, in typical Seurat fashion when his most famous work, the tour-de-force , drew skepticism amid the praise, “the artist did not respond to such criticism with a written statement of intent or defense in the papers. Instead, he retreated to his studio and began work on another large-scale canvas which would meet the challenge head-on and showcase the full expressive potential of pointillism.”

The resulting composition, , was to become one of the artist’s most celebrated and iconic works. According to Christie’s: “Painted in 1888, the present composition is believed to have been created during the final stages of the painting’s completion, perhaps even after the canvas was finished, and is the most complete and refined version of the scene among the associated works.”

1. Andy Warhol, (1964)

A man looks at Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn during Christie's 20th and 21st Century art press preview at Christie's New York on April 29, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

A man looks at Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn during Christie’s 20th and 21st Century art press preview at Christie’s New York on April 29, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Price: $195 million

When: May 9

Where: Christie’s New York

Why: In addition to being the most expensive work all year at auction, and more than $45 million ahead of the Seurat—the second most expensive piece—this iconic Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe is also notable as one of the rare exceptions to the dominant Paul Allen provenance. It hails instead from the collection of Swiss siblings and dealers Doris and Thomas Amman, whose collection was one of a cluster of blue-chip private collections, including that of Anne Bass, that Christie’s offered during the spring season.

As much buzz as this painting generated—at $200 million, it was the most expensive pre-sale estimate ever placed on a work—it managed to sell a tad under that to mega-dealer Larry Gagosian. But by the time the Allen collection blew through Christie’s last month, the record-smashing Marilyn seemed like a distant memory.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here