The Top 10 greatest price surges



Fridays are the Best! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you a themed auction ranking. The ranking this week reveals the 10 greatest price surges during the first quarter of 2015, where the work literally blew their estimates away.

The Top 10 greatest price surges
Rank Artist Hammer Price Estimation Artwork Sale
1 Quan GU (Attrib.) $5,469,380 $89,296 Cinq Cent Luohan, 2015-06-09 Christie’s PARIS
2 WANG Gai $420,000 $12,000 Landscape and Figures 2015-03-19 Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY
3 Qiong DU (Attrib.) $279,050 $8,930 Paysage 2015-06-09 Christie’s PARIS
4 Henri Baptiste LEBASQUE $230,000 $7 000 Madame Lebasque and her Daughters 2015-06-19 Michaan’s Auctions ALAMEDA CA
5 Giovan Battista RUOPPOLO (Attrib.) $902,319 $33 837 Nature morte aux cédrats, oranges, asperges et artichauts 2015-06-05 Rossini S,A, (S,V,V,) PARIS
6 Jules Auguste HABERT-DYS $222,499 $9 082 Vase, ronde de trois cigales dressées sur la pointe de leurs ailes (1905) 2015-06-22 Rennes Enchères RENNES
7 Pieter HUYS (Attrib.) $170,778 $8 814 Le tentazioni di Sant’Antonio abate/San Cristoforo traghetta il Bambin Gesù 2015-05-25 Della Rocca TURIN TO
8 $320,000 $15 000 Calligraphy 2015-03-17 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
9 ZENG Xi $400,000 $20 000 Xiyuan Study (1926) 2015-03-18 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
10 SHI Lu $3,000,000 $150 000 Prunus Branch and Rock (1971) 2015-03-18 Christie’s NEW YORK NY
copyright © 2015


Chinese price surges

In 2015, despite the slowing of the Chinese economy and President Xi Jinping’s far-reaching campaign against corruption on the art market, two events that tend to compress the market, Chinese artists are the primary ones with the greatest price surges. We recall that public Chinese sales, which had risen +214% from 2009–2014, were strongly slowed during the first quarter of 2015, with a number of lots sold at a decrease of -39% and a fall in product sales along the lines of -30% (in all of China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan). Chinese growth is reigned in partly through anti-corruption measures, and, in the absence of strict legal definitions, all the citizens with strong purchasing power in the People’s Republic of China guard against any extravagant purchase. This contraction comes with the market repositioning, which the greatest Chinese price surges testify to, since they reward historic artists, primarily those active from the 15th–19th century. Could this trend of investing in historic patrimony indicate a weariness for the speculative games of young artists? It is true that the boosted prices for contemporary artists are always more risky than on for established artists, inscribed in history.

Thus, the six Chinese artists in this Top10 prove that the market remains very speculative outside of contemporary artists who have already enjoyed glory days from 2006-2008. The Chinese artists ranked include Wang Gai (1654-1710), Sun Wen (1866-1925), Zeng Xi (1861-1930), Shi Lu (1919-1982), and they are sold in New York, where the sales are followed far and away by avid Chinese buyers. They also include Du Qiong (1396-1474) and Gu Quan (18th century), with two works proposed marked by the phrase, “attributed to”, and offered at Christie’s Paris branch.

The most impressive surge of the year was made by a work “attributed” to artist Gu Quan, court painter under the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). This sole attribution literally threw the bidders into a panic following the sale at Christie’s Paris, on 9 June. Christie’s auction house showed itself to be cautious, as it is difficult to retrace the authenticity of Gu Quan, whose works never appear at auction. Thus, collectors are jolted by the opportunity. The work in question, titled Cinq cent Luohan (Five Hundred Luohan), refers to the 500 enlightened monks who integrated Buddhism at the start of the Tang dynasty…on more than 11 meters of ink drawing on a scroll. Cautiously estimated at USD 90,000–133,000, it ultimately sold for USD 6.3m, including fees. The scroll belonged to a French collection. Christie’s has not revealed the nationality of the buyer…


European price surges on a case-by-case basis

Surges like that of Gu Quan, defying all expectations by reaching several millions, are rare indeed. The cautious (or strategic) cases of bids for work are much less in this case. European auction houses, true attics of the art history market, are brimming with pleasant surprises. Two of those surprises appear in our ranking, with bids for the work of painters Ruoppolo Giovan Battista (1629-1693) and Huys Pieter (1519-1584).

The work “attributed” to Ruoppolo Giovan Battista, Neapolitan painter and grand master of still life in the 17th century, seemed to be determined to attract a maximum number of bidders with an attractive estimation, as the origin of this work was irreproachable. This superb copper still life bears the stamp of the Infant Don Luis de Borbón, whose fabulous collection comprised dozens of works from artists of his day, among them Francisco de Goya and Lorenzo Tiepolo. Hardly astonishing that the work obliterated its initial estimate… However, more surprising: its final price, at more than USD 900,000, setting an all-time record for an authenticated work by Battista. The buyer was sure of his stroke and not the only to have spotted the masterpiece…

This was also the case for a piece attributed to Huys Pieter, celebrated master of the Flemish renaissance, influenced by Pieter Bruegel, whose official record is USD 220,000 for a piece sold as his (La naissance d’Adam, or The Birth of Adam), sold by the Coutau-Begarie company in Paris in 2012). Yet, this record was very nearly beaten by the sole attribution to the artist in May in Turin. It must be noted that the lot proposed by the Della Rocca auction house included not one but two paintings of exceptional quality. The final price was USD 208,000 including fees, versus an upper estimate of USD 11,000.

Two other atypical cases are found in this Top 10: the new record set for Jules Auguste Habert-Dys and the modification of the price of a painting by Henri Baptiste Lebasque.
Jules Auguste Habert-Dys is a French artist we know little about, aside from the fact that he was born in 1850 and died after 1927, that in 1874 he was admitted into the studio of Gérôme, professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and that some of his decorative objects are found in the collections at Musée d’Orsay. It’s precisely an object of this kind, both vase and sculpture depicting three grasshoppers, which multiplied its average estimate by 20 at the start of the summer, at Rennes Enchères auction house.
This surge, for a work by Jules Auguste Habert-Dys which would never have reached USD 100,000 before, is less the signal of a return of appreciation for the Art Nouveau style than the appetite of collectors for works of truly exceptional quality.

Lastly, a painting by Lebasque (1865-1937) multiplied its estimate by 30, after being poorly estimated in a Californian marketplace unaccustomed to selling the great modern French artists. A Lebasque painting for USD 7,000 would have been the steal of the year! Even his drawings were hardly available at that price 10 or 20 years ago…