May 2010: Top 10 auction results



Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a ranking of auction records. This week, discover the highest prices recorded in May 2010.

After the major auction sales in New York during May, Artprice has compiled a Top 10 of the best results. The high hammer prices in this Top 10 confirm the recovery of the top end of the art market with twelve new records, including the new world record for an artwork after Pablo PICASSO’s œuvre Nude, Green Leaves and Bust went under the hammer for $95m at Christie’s in New York on 4 May. This spectacular sum is more than double the best auction result in 2009 generated by Raphaël’s drawing Head of a muse ($42.9m at Christie’s in London on 8 December).

A Top 10 at $324.3m
In just one week (05/04 – 05/12), Christie’s and Sotheby’s generated six results above the $25m line. The combined revenue from the top 3 results ($95m for Picasso’s Nude,Green Leaves and Bust + $47.5m for Giacometti’s Grande tête mince + $29m for Warhol’s Self Portrait) almost equals the total generated by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury from their 2009 May sales ($180m from 734 lots). The combined revenue from Christie’s and Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art sales was up 205% vs. 2009. In May 2009, no-one dared to offer Picasso’s major works for sale. A year later, his works are at both ends of the Top 10 (in 10th position, his Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil fetched $16m, estimated $10m – $15m ). His peer Henri MATISSE is in 6th position with Bouquet de fleurs pour le quatorze juillet ($25.5m, Sotheby’s).

Top 10 Hammer price in May 2010

Giacometti: $181.5m from 4 pieces
Holder of the world record art auction result for two months after his bronze L’Homme qui marche I sold for $92.5m, Alberto GIACOMETTI has 3 works in the May 2010 Top 10 (vs. 1 in 2009): his sculpture Grande tête mince ($47.5m at Christie’s), his La Main ($23m) and his Le Chat ($18.5m).
Together the four pieces have generated a combined total of more than $181.5m.

Contemporary art generates $368.5m
Apart from Andy Warhol, the 2009 Top 10 showed a clear shift away from post-war and contemporary art in favour of modern and old masters. This year, the trend is reversing. In fact, there are already four contemporary works in the Top 10: two signed Andy Warhol, one by Mark Rothko and another by Jasper Johns. In addition, the combined revenue from Sotheby’s and Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art sales is up 230% vs. 2009 (Sotheby’s with $166.2m from 50 lots dispersed and 6% unsold, and Christie’s with $202.3m from 74 lots and 8% unsold).

First in his category, Andy WARHOL maintains his third position with Self Portrait ($29m, Sotheby’s) and also takes the 9th position with his Silver Liz ($16.3m). The Top 10 also features Mark ROTHKO in 4th position with Untitled ($28m, Sotheby’s) and Jasper JOHNS in 5th position with Flag ($25.5m, Christie’s).