The best-ever 2010 auction results


Every fortnight Artprice posts a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The topic of today’s TOP article is the 10 best auction results in 2010.

At the end of 2010, the global art auction balance sheet is distinctly positive with a large number of excellent results in being generated in New York, London and Paris. 2010 is also a year of historic results for Sotheby’s, Christie’s and even Phillips de Pury who posted their best-ever result (at the Carte blanche – Philippe Ségalot sale). In fact, the three firms have never generated so many million-plus results in a single year: 372 for Sotheby’s (vs. 196 in 2009) and 370 for Christie’s (vs. 221 in 2009).

Top 10 : the 10 best auction results in 2010

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Pablo PICASSO $95 000 000 Nude, Green Leaves and Bust 05/04/10 (Christie’s NY)
2 Alberto GIACOMETTI $92 521 600 L’homme qui marche I 02/03/10 (Sotheby’s London)
3 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $61 500 000 Nu assis sur un divan 11/02/10 (Sotheby’s NY)
4 Andy WARHOL $56 500 000 Men in her life 11/08/10 (Phillips de Pury NY)
5 Alberto GIACOMETTI $47 500 000 Grande tête mince (1954) 05/04/10 (Christie’s NY)
6 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $46 650 450 Tête 06/14/10 (Christie’s Paris)
7 Pablo PICASSO $45 814 900 Portrait d’Angel Fernandez de Soto 06/23/10 (Christie’s London)
8 Henri MATISSE $43 500 000 Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV) 11/03/10 (Christie’s NY)
9 Joseph Mallord William TURNER $40 211 100 Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino 07/07/10 (Sotheby’s London)
10 Gustav KLIMT $38 284 800 Kirche in Cassone… 02/03/10 (Sotheby’s London)

A Top 10 at $567.5m
The No. 1 result in 2010 was of course the new world record for a work of art: Pablo PICASSO’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust fetched $95m on 4 May 2010 at Christie’s, New York.
After this superb result, Christie’s hoped to generate £40m from Picasso’s blue period absinthe drinker Portrait d’Angel Fernandez de Soto, but the firm was disappointed when the piece went under the hammer at £31m ($45.8m) on 23 June.

On 3 February 2010, Sotheby’s sold Alberto GIACOMETTI’s L’homme qui marche I for $92.5m, allowing the firm to post its best-ever total for a London sale and simultaneously marking the ‘wake-up’ of the market after a year and a half of crisis.
Another superb result from the same sale was £24m for Gustav KLIMT’s Church in cassone – Landscape with cypresses, a record for a landscape by the artist (10th in this ranking).

Giacometti also set his second-best-ever result this year when Grande Tête Mince fetched $47.5m (estimated $25m – $35m) on 4 May at the sale of the Mrs Sidney Frances Brody collection, taking 5th place in this ranking.

Amedeo MODIGLIANI is 3rd on the 2010 podium for his sensual Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) which, having fetched $15.5m at Sotheby’s New York in 1999, sold for $61.5m on 2 November 2010 at the same auctioneer. This latest score beat his previous record of $46.65m for Tête set earlier in the year at Christie’s Paris (14 June).
Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) was also the second best-ever auction result generated on French soil behind Picasso’s Les noces de Pierrette which fetched €45.7m at Binoche-Godeau in Paris in 1989.

In 4th place in this global 2010 ranking we have Andy WARHOL’s Men in her Life – the masterpiece of the Phillips de Pury sale organised by Philippe Ségalot – that fetched the artist’s second-best-ever result at $56.5m. Indeed, this single result produced nearly half of the revenue total from the Phillips sales on 8 November.

One of Christie’s best results last year was for a rare work by Henri MATISSE: a bronze statue, Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV), that fetched $43.5m, i.e. $8.5m beyond its high estimate. This new record beat his previous personal auction record by $2m ($41.46m for Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose – on 23 February 2009).

Old Masters also seem to have recovered their pre-crisis dynamism. For example the 19th century painting by Joseph Mallord William TURNER, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino that sold for £26.5m ($40.2m) at Sotheby’s 7 July sale in London, pulverising its estimate of £12m – £18m.

The success of the ‘high end’ acts as a stimulant for the art market as a whole and the AMCI (Art Market Confidence Insight) closed the year at 31 points.