The best sales in Spain


Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, the ten best results recorded in Spain during the first half of 2016 are reviewed.

The best sales in Spain
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
$421,989 Monte Ulía, san Sebastian (1917) 2016-02-23 Goya Subastas Madrid
2 Salvador DALI (1904-1989) $234,128 El llac de Vilabertran (c.1919-1920) 2016-04-06 Fernando Durán Madrid
3 Joaquín SOROLLA Y BASTIDA (1863-1923) $150,056 San Francisco Javier (1891) 2016-05-25 Alcala Subastas Madrid
4 Georges BRAQUE (1882-1963) $112,932 Tetera y limón (1947) 2016-04-06 Ansorena Madrid
5 José Gutiérrez SOLANA (1886-1945) $108,890 Cargadores de vino 2016-06-15 Ansorena Madrid
6 Evgeni Evgenievich LANCERAY (1875-1946) $95,297 Abanderado a caballo 2016-02-18 Durán Madrid
7 Miquel BARCELO (1957) $82,633 Figues esbravades (1997) 2016-04-06 Fernando Durán Madrid
8 María BLANCHARD (1881-1932) $82,633 Rostro-Cabeza de mujer 2016-04-06 Ansorena Madrid
9 Keith HARING (1958-1990) $80,259 Barking Dog (1989) 2016-06-29 Fernando Durán Madrid
10 Hermenegildo ANGLADA CAMARASA (1871/72-1959) $78,937 Parral 2016-03-02 Ansorena Madrid
copyright © 2016

Spain has clearly not yet regained the sales it attained before the financial crisis of 2008. The proceeds of auctions, which totalled more than $57 million in 2007, have halved since then. In the first half of 2016, public auctions have generated only $10 million in revenue, so the country now ranks in 24th position, behind France ($302 million) but also Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

The place of Spain in the history of art and its influence on the international cultural scene still gives it great potential in this market. If the best works of the great masters of the golden age of Spanish painting (Velasquez, Zurbaran, El Greco, etc.) are now sold in London and New York, as well as those of Spain’s most prominent modern artists (as highlighted in Artprice’s latest ranking of Spanish artists), this market still offers beautiful, unique and particularly diverse artworks inherited from a long tradition of collecting. The ten best auctions in the first half of the year thus showcase great Spanish painters, as well as French artists and even American pop art.

Joaquin Sorrolla Y Bastida dominates the rankings with two paintings of quite different styles: a colourful landscape painted in 1917 in San Sebastian, and a pious portrait of San Francisco Javier, completed a quarter of a century earlier. Neither of these paintings truly are among Sorolla’s best works. Collectors indeed still prefer large vivid scenes showing Spanish beaches, which are sold year on year for over a million dollars in London and New York. However, the two new paintings sold this year in Madrid (none of which had ever appeared at auction before) show Sorrolla’s pictorial research and the evolution of his art.

In second place in this ranking comes El llac de Vilabertran by Salvador Dali, which also stands out for its originality. An early work, painted between 1919 and 1920, when Dali was only 17 and before Surrealism was even created, this painting shows the first influences of the future genius, predominantly Impressionism. This oil on canvas found no buyer in November 2015 at Fernando Durán’s, which then estimated it at $270,000. This second appearance was rather successful as the painting was sold for only $35,000 less than the original estimate.

The only contemporary artist in this Top 10 is Miquel Barcelo, who enjoys great success in his homeland. Although he followed the example of the great modern artists by first establishing his reputation in the French capital (where two fantastic exhibitions were dedicated to his work this year, one at the BNF and the second at the Picasso Museum), Miquel Barcelo’s work continues to be sold regularly in Madrid. Spain is indeed still his third largest market, accounting for 3% of his auction sales in the first half of 2016, after the UK (84%) and France (11%).

Usually, the artworks sold by Spanish auction houses essentially offer works by Spanish artists although they also sell lesser known pieces by major artists. In June, a felt pen drawing by Keith Haring changed hands for $80,000. Earlier in the year, a small painting by Georges Braque, Tetera y limon (1947), was sold for the equivalent of $113,000 at Ansorena’s. The same work had been sold for $78,400 by the same auction house in January 2001. The increase of 45% over the past 15 years shows that the Spanish art market has not collapsed.

If auctions sales held firm despite a difficult recovery, Spain primarily owes its success to a group of auction houses concentrated in the capital. Despite the absence of major international auction brands such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, prices maintained themselves and interesting works continue to circulate.

The success of the ARCO fair, which is held annually in February in the capital, is proof of the attractiveness of the Madrid market for collectors both local and international. Last year, the fair took place in Lisbon with the aim of revitalizing the Portuguese market. Iberia still has great cultural riches and Madrid has all the potential to become the largest art trade centre in the area. It could thus reaffirm its place in the international art market and play a role comparable to that of Stockholm, Istanbul and Brussels.