2013: Top Ten in Drawing



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the ten top bids in 2013 for drawing.

A quiet revolution has taken place over the past few years with drawing, where prices have posted the most spectacular growth of the decade compared with painting and sculpture. The price index for drawing has literally rocketed since 2003, posting an overall rise of 185%, due primarily to activity in mainland China, where drawing is central to its cultural tradition. The buoyancy of the Chinese market is obvious from a Top Ten dominated by Chinese artists, who account for six of the ten best bids in 2013 for works on paper.

Top 10 : the ten top bids in 2013 for drawing

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Edward Coley BURNE-JONES $19664040 Love among the Ruins () 07/11/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
2 HUANG Zhou $18289600 Gaiety in the grassland (1981) 12/02/2013 (Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd ??)
3 LI Xiongcai $12760000 Pine (1984) 03/30/2013 (Rong Bao Auctions Co.Ltd ??)
4 QI Baishi $11326000 Pine tree and eagle (1946) 07/06/2013 (Shanghai DuoYunXuan auction SHANGHAI)
5 Egon SCHIELE $11004700 Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung Mit Wally)(Lovers – Self-Portrait With Wa (c.1914/15) 02/05/2013 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
6 Edgar DEGAS $10847490 Après le bain (femme s’essuyant) (c.1882/85) 02/05/2013 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
7 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $10600000 Untitled (Head of Madman) (1982) 11/12/2013 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
8 TANG Yin $10037800 Landscape () 06/03/2013 (Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd ??)
9 ZHANG Daqian $10031600 Lady red whisk (1944) 05/10/2013 (China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. ??)
10 LI Keran $9546000 Jinggang Mountains (1976) 11/26/2013 (Christie’s HONG KONG)


The best hammer prices in China

Considered the greatest Eastern painter by Picasso, the modern artist Qi Baishi (1864-1957) brought about a profound change in Chinese drawing through his powerfully evocative, simple and dynamic style. Yet 2013 was not the most prosperous year in his history, despite 43 bids of over a million, $230 million in total sale results and a record year culminating in $11.3 million (Pine tree and eagle, 1946, Shanghai DuoYunXuan auction, Shanghai, 6 July 2013) – because Qi Baishi is capable of going much higher. His absolute record stands at $57.2 million for a three-part ink drawing (Eagle Standing on Pine Tree; Four-Character Couplet in Seal Script, 22 May 2011, China Guardian, Beijing), sold in 2011, his most successful year to date, when his work generated sales of over $510 million – even more than Pablo Picasso. Well-known to players in the global market, supply and demand remain localised in Asia, where 99% of his revenues are registered.

Across all media, Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) was the world’s third highest-performing artist behind Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. His works generated over $291.6 million at auction in 2013, a year marked by 55 hammer prices of over a million. Year after year, Zhang Daqian has established himself as the world’s most expensive artist in the realm of drawing, not because he holds an absolute record, but because no other artist has obtained so many bids of over a million. Last year, his top hammer price, $10 million for Lady Red Whisk, was his third best bid.

In 2013, a Chinese auction took an artist less well known than Baishi and Daqian soaring to the heights: Huang Zhou (1925-1997), a prolific artist who made the headlines in December 2013 when he smashed his previous record of $10 million. The work in question, Gaiety in the Grassland, a wide-angle tableau of horsewomen (142 x 360 cm) of 1981, went from an estimate of $2.4 million to a record result of $18.2 million at Poly International in Beijing. Record bids in the Chinese market thus moved over to new names, adding a few million to artists much sought-after at auction in China, but sometimes not so familiar to Western art lovers. Li Xiongcai (1910-2001), for example, added no less than $10 million to his previous record, and the oldest artist, Tang Yin (1470-1523), doubled estimates that already stood at several million. One of the most expensive draughtsmen in the world is still Li Keran (1907-1989), with four hammer prices of over $10 million under his belt, including a record equivalent to $40.3 million for Mountains in Red, obtained on 3 June 2012. This meant that the Poly auction house sold the highest-priced work in the Chinese market that year.

Soaring prices in the West

We would expect to find Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in this type of ranking, since they are two of the rarest and most sought-after names. Schiele even posted a new record at $11 million, and his third bid over the $10 million mark at the same time. Meanwhile Degas, whose most popular works are dancers and women at their bath, doubled an estimate that was too modest at Sotheby’s London in February 2013 with a pastel work, Après le bain (femme s’essuyant).

There were some even more astonishing bids for Burne-Jones and Basquiat – because the leading light of the second Pre-Raphaelite group, Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898), added $18 million to his previous record in July 2013 at Christie’s, with Love Among the Ruins: a work unveiled to the public after more than fifty years off the market. This major work sported a sound pedigree. It was presented for the first time in 1873 at the Dudley Gallery in London, then exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878, establishing the artist’s international reputation. In addition, this Christie’s sale was particularly timely, coming after the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the London Tate, which opened in Washington before travelling to Moscow in June 2013.

Although the only contemporary artist (born after 1945) in this ranking, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) came seventh, close on Degas’ heels. Nearly a third of his works sold in 2013 garnered prices of over a million (32 of the 91 lots sold) and his price index for the decade as a whole posted a staggering rise of 433%. Never has speculation been so rampant for this name, with high prices for his paintings exerting a considerable lever effect on his drawings. In 2013 he reached a peak for his works on paper with $10.6 million for Untitled (Head of Madman) at Christie’s New York, doubling his previous record in this medium.

With the domination of the Chinese and a younger market, drawing represents an increasingly significant share in sale results. It now accounts for 33% of revenues in the global art market (compared with 10% ten years ago), and in 2013 alone, it tallied 483 results of over a million (compared with 15 in 2003).