Swiss Contemporary Artists



Every Friday fortnight Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, the ten best auction results for works by Contemporary Swiss artists.

With a new record at $6m, Urs Fischer is now the world’s most expensive living artist under the age of 40. This represents a new departure for the Swiss art scene.

Top 10 : best auction results for works by contemporary Swiss artists

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Urs FISCHER $6 000 000 Untitled (Lamp-Bear) 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)
2 Urs FISCHER $900 000 Untitled (Candle) 11/09/2010 (Sotheby’s NY)
3 Peter & David FISCHLI & WEISS $700 910 Der Lauf der Dinge (1987) 12/01/2008 (Christie’s Zürich)
4 Urs FISCHER $500 000 Airports Are Like Nightclubs 05/11/2011 (Christie’s NY)
5 Ugo RONDINONE $490 550 No.147 Achtezehnterjulin… 02/07/2008 (Christie’s London)
6 Ugo RONDINONE $452 220 Air-gets-into-everything-even-nothing 06/29/2010 (Phillips de Pury London)
7 Peter & David FISCHLI & WEISS $446 649 4 Holtessen (4 Stewardess) (1988) 02/17/2011 (Phillips de Pury London)
8 Ugo RONDINONE $418 740 No. 299 (2003) 07/02/2008 (Sotheby’s London)
9 Ugo RONDINONE $359 490 Dritteraprilzweitausendundsieben 02/12/2010 (Phillips de Pury London)
10 Ugo RONDINONE $329 023 Moorise, west january to december 10/18/2008 (Phillips de Pury London)

Urs Fischer

In 2007, Urs FISCHER’s first work to be presented at auction Sigh, Sigh, Sherlock! fetched $10,000, just two months after he had represented Switzerland alongside Ugo Rondinone at the 52nd Venice Biennial.
Two years later, his work was acquired by the famous French magnate and art collector François Pinault and was already fetching $100,000.
In 2010 his auction prices rocketed, making a giant leap from $120,000 to $900,000, the latter for his Untitled (Candle) at Sotheby’s New York on 9 November.
In 2011 the ascension has continued! In effect, on 11 May this year, Urs Fischer generated six new auction results including a new personal record for a massive 7-metre tall sculpture Untitled (Lamp/Bear) that fetched $6m at Christie’s New York, i.e. nearly seven times more than his previous record. With this result Urs Fischer remains the most expensive Contemporary Swiss artist (a title he has held since 2010). He also generated – at the same sale – his third best result ($500,000) for a robotic sculpture entitled Airports Are Like Nightclubs.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss
The works of Peter & David FISCHLI & WEISS, which vary from installations to references to classical sculptur, are today part of the permanent collections of the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Guggenheim in New York. Winners of the Lion d’Or in 2003 and the Roswitha Haftmann Foundation prize in November 2006, the duo saw their price index shoot up in 2008 (+210%) notably after the sale of their video installation Der Lauf der Dinge which fetched a record of CHF 850,000 ($700,910) at Christie’s in Zurich. After a difficult period, the duo’s index returned to a growth path in 2011 with 4 Holtessen (4 Stewardess) fetching £230,000 ($370,521) on 17 February 2011 at Phillips de Pury in London.
15% of the duo’s auction sales take place in Switzerland, while the US and UK markets account for 70% of the transactions (50% in the USA and 20% in the UK) and 81% of their auction revenue (respectively 53% and 28%).

Ugo Rondinone
Ugo RONDINONE first appeared at auction in 2000. But it wasn’t until 2008 that the artist’s prices really started to gather momentum, boosted by the The Third Mind – Carte blanche à Ugo Rondinone exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (September 2007 to January 2008). During that year, 5 giant acrylic paintings and one sculpture fetched between $121,000 and $490,550. The latter price was generated by a hypnotic circle measuring 220 cm in diameter entitled No.147 Achtezehnterjulin Eunzehnhundertheunundneunzig that was presented at Christie’s in London on 7 February 2008 where it fetched £250,000. Several months later No. 299 fetched £210,000 ($418,740) at Sotheby’s in London (02/07/2008). At the end of the same year 2008, a mask by the artist entitled Moorise, west january to december generated another record when it fetched £190,000 ($329,023) at Phillips de Pury in London.
The market recovery in 2010 put new wind in Ugo Rondinone’s sails with two new results above $350,000, both at Phillips de Pury: his Air-gets-into-everything-even-nothing sold for £300,000 ($452,220) and his Dritteraprilzweitausendundsieben fetched £230,000 ($359,490).
Ugo Rondinone is the most international artist in this ranking: 97% of his auction revenue is generated in the US/UK markets… and Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy only see his works offered at auctions very occasionally.

While Switzerland is the birthplace of many internationally recognised Modern artists (Alberto Giacometti, Ferdinand Hodler and Paul Klee for example), it has also produced a number of Contemporary artists who have made a strong impact by using new mediums and creating proteiform and uninhibited installations.
Another Contemporary Swiss artist to follow is Thomas HIRSCHHORN who represented Switzerland at the 54th Venice Biennial and is already well-established on the secondary market. He has already generated 14 results above $10,000 and his current personal record is £70,000 ($130,158) for his Abstrait Relief No.548 (Phillips de Pury, London, 14/10/2006).