Top 10 auction sales by city


It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week we look at the results of 10 cities involved in the art auction market.

Observing in detail the best sales of each city speaks volumes regarding the current dynamics of the art market… The gap between the most attractive cities is phenomenal in terms of record auction sales, the highest prices being undoubtedly paid in New York, London, Beijing and Hong Kong (four international auction centres that attract most of the supply and demand), as well as Paris, which obtained remarkable results in 2017, while offering some of the highest quality artworks on the planet.

Rank Artist Sold($) Artwork Sale
1 New York LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) 450 312 500$ Salvator Mundi 15/11/2017 Christie’s New York
2 Beijing QI Baishi (1864-1957) 14 0954 580$ Screens of landscapes
17/12/2017 Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd Beijing
3 London Gustav KLIMT (1862-1918) 59 004 637$ Bauerngarten 01/03/2017 Sotheby’s London
4 Paris Alberto GIACOMETTI (1901-1966) 29497454$ Grande femme II 19/10/2017 Christie’s Paris
5 Hong Kong FU Baoshi (1904-1965) 26 259 721$ The song of the Pipa player 28/11/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
6 Taipei SAN Yu (1901-1966) 9 352 734$ Vase of Chrysanthemums with red Ground 04/06/2017 Ravenel International Art Group Taipei
7 Shanghai WU Hufan (1894-1968) 7 229 590$ Landscape 25/06/2017 Shanghai DuoYunXuan auction
8 Guangzhou QIAN Weicheng (1720-1772) 5 369 120$ Landscape
27/05/2017 Holly International Co.Ltd
9 Vienna Egon SCHIELE (1890-1918) 2 752 678$ Liegende Frau 21/11/2017 Dorotheum
10 Hangzhou ZHU Da (1626-1705) 2 542 650$ Pine and deer
15/07/2017 Xiling Yinshe Auction
copyright © 2017

It is difficult to imagine, however, that Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi could have reached the price it did ($450m) in the French capital rather than in the Big Apple, as Paris does not quite have the clout of New York… Major masterpieces are usually sold where they are likely to reach the highest prices, i.e. in the most influential cities, where the largest resources are deployed to promote them. The costs of display and marketing increase with the value of the work and only the most powerful auction companies can afford to organise travelling exhibitions in Hong Kong and London to publicize the highlights of their catalogues before a major sale in New York for example. However, it is often through these touring exhibitions that they manage to raise the interest of collectors worldwide for high quality works, the law of averages and competition driving up prices.

From one city to another, the art market is not the same, neither are the prices! Our ranking reveals for example the gap between the Austrian market, led by Vienna, whose best sale in 2017 was $2.7 million and the London art market, which peaked at $59 million with the sale of the superb Bauerngarten (1907) by Gustav Klimt, who, ironically, was an Austrian artist! The Bauerngarten painting, exhibited in Vienna in 1909 and then in Prague, ended up in a London collection 23 years ago through Christie’s London. The importance of London for the sale of Modern European masterpieces is therefore not a new phenomenon, far from it.

The new trend in today’s art market, compared to twenty years ago, is the tremendous growth of Asian cities and their ambitious development. The new record recently set of more than $140.9 million for the Chinese Modern master Qi Baishi in Beijing illustrates both the interest of major Chinese collectors for their own artists and the rise of Beijing to price levels formerly ‘reserved’ for New York. You may recall that lat month, Qi Baishi (1864-1957) became the first Chinese artist to sell for over $100 million, becoming part of the very small circle of seven artists to have exceeded $110m at auction, that includes Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Edvard Munch and Jean-Michel Basquiat (see AMI from 2 January 2018, Figures for the year 2017. Chapter 4).

Hong Kong, an even more international marketplace than Beijing, attracts Western and Pan-Asian market players, collectors and dealers alike. If the exceptional record established for Qi Baishi has widened the major gap between Hong Kong and Beijing, the gap between Hong Kong and Paris has just been reduced. For the first time in many years, the best annual auction in Paris was higher than that of Hong Kong, thanks to the first French sale of a work by Giacometti for more than $10 million. It was time for Paris to benefit from the influence of this major artist, of whom 35 works have already passed the $10 million mark in London and New York (even reaching $141 million for L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man) at Christie’s New York, on 11 May 2015)…