The 2017 Top 10


It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. For the last Top 10 of 2017 we look back at the highest sales in the world this year.

More than 1 billion dollars

The last Top 10 of the year is also the most impressive ever in the auction world, thanks the sale of the most expensive work of art in the world: Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which went through the roof at $450 million. The sale of this masterpiece, as well as eight Western works from Modern to Contemporary art, and a work by a Chinese artist, generated $1.044 billion, an unprecedented record for the sale of 10 works, which is even more incredible knowing that the annual sales in 2016 were worth $12.4 billion for nearly 490,000 works sold worldwide…

In this high-end, elite-only market, Christie’s dominates other auction houses by recording seven out of the Top 10 auctions, as opposed to two for Sotheby’s and one for China Guardian in Beijing.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) 450 312 500 Salvator Mundi 2017-11-15 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
2 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) 110 487 500 Untitled 2017-05-18 Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY
3 Vincent VAN GOGH (1853-1890) 81 312 500 Laboureur dans un champ 2017-11-13 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
4 Fernand LÉGER (1881-1955) 70 062 500 Contraste de formes 2017-11-13 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
5 Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) 60 875 000 Sixty Last Suppers 2017-11-15 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
6 Gustav KLIMT (1862-1918) 59 004 638 Bauerngarten 2017-03-01 Sotheby’s LONDON
7 Constantin BRANCUSI (1876-1957) 57 367 500 La muse endormie 2017-05-15 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
8 Cy TWOMBLY (1928-2011) 52 887 500 Leda and the Swan 2017-05-17 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
9 Francis BACON (1909-1992) 51 767 500 Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer 2017-05-17 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
10 HUANG Binhong (1865-1955) 50 577 000 Yellow mountain 2017-06-19 China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. BEIJING
copyright © 2017

Spotlight on Salvator Mundi

The precious painting created five centuries ago was included in the Contemporary and Post War Art sale organised in New York on 15 November 2017 and not in the Old Masters sale as one would have expected. In doing so, Christie’s broke the codes and created an event within an event. This unprecedented move by such a respected art institution perfectly reflects the future of the art market: the tendency to combine modern and contemporary works is indeed accentuated by the digitalization of sales. On the big day, the bids started at $70m and for the first time ever, collectors were upping the bids by $20 or even $30 million dollars, finishing at $400 million after 19 minutes of frenzied bidding. The final price under the hammer was $450.3 million, including buyer fees and various taxes. The $450.3 million marks an all-time record in the long history of auctions, largely doubling the previous world record, which reached $179.3 million for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’), sold in May 2015 by Christie’s.

See previous articles on ArtmarketInsight

Artprice: Leonardo Da Vinci’s record for Salvator Mundi shows how the Museum Industry(R) is revolutionizing the art market’s economic model (LINK).

New York Times agrees with Artprice’s prediction on the scaling up of the art market after Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi record sale at Christie’s (LINK).

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and soon to be exhibited at the Louvre Paris shows the relevance of the Museum Industry(R) business model created by Artprice (LINK).


That day, on 15 November 2017, the last Da Vinci happened to be in the same auction as the last painting by Warhol, Sixty Last Suppers (1986), a gigantic work of three metres by ten portraying 60 variations of the famous Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. Christie’s certainly hoped to make two new absolute records in the same evening with a work from the master of the Renaissance and one from the master of Pop Art, but Warhol’s Suppers only reached $60.85, failing to get to the expected 100 million although it is the largest work by the artist and a unique artistic statement realized shortly before his death. Sixty Last Suppers nevertheless became the seventh most expensive work by Warhol and the fifth highest sale of 2017, after Fernand Léger, Vincent Van Gogh, da Vinci and a work by Basquiat, which sold for more than 100 million.

This year, Basquiat has become more expensive than Warhol. Basquiat is indeed now more expensive than Warhol. On 18 May 2017 in New York a painting by the artist actually sold for $110,487,500 versus $105,445,000 for Green car crash by Warhol (sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s New York). The artist from the Bronx who became a world star is one of the most sought-after painters today, with a rising price index of +1,586% since 2000. If 2017 marks a new height for Basquiat, it also shows a profound evolution in the economic perception of Contemporary art: for the first time, Untitled by Basquiat brings a contemporary artist into the elite group of art market big hitters such as Picasso, Modigliani, Giacometti, Bacon and Munch, the only ones to have exceeded $100m before Basquiat.

From Da Vinci to Basquiat, this annual ranking reveals particularly significant world records, but they are not the only ones. This year, Fernand Léger almost doubled his existing record and Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse saw its value multiply by 6.6 in 20 years. And the $50,577m paid for a work by Chinese artist Huang Binhong has no precedent as the artist’s highest price to date was $10 million before this new record. The records obtained by both Chinese masters and masters of the Western Renaissance can indeed be multiplied four or five times with a single blow of the hammer…