Top 10 results so far in Post-War and Contemporary Art


Every other Friday, Artprice posts a “Top” ranking that provides insight into the Art market’s major trends. This week, we look at the artists who have generated the best auction results in Post-War and Contemporary Art so far this year.

The prestige sales held during February and March this year highlight four works which each fetched over $10 million. At first glance… of the four most valued artists during the first quarter, David Hockney topped Magritte, Richter and Basquiat!


Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 David HOCKNEY (1937) 49 561 791 Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 2019-03-06 – Christie’s , London
2 René MAGRITTE (1898-1967) 24 424 835 Le lieu commun 2019-02-27 – Christie’s , London
3 Gerhard RICHTER (1932) 20 408 042 Dϋsenjäger 2019-03-07 – Phillips, New York
4 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) 10 814 998 Apex 2019-03-05 – Sotheby’s, London
5 Gerhard RICHTER (1932) 9 093 302 Abstraktes Bild 2019-03-05 – Sotheby’s, London
6 Roy LICHTENSTEIN (1923-1997) 7 638 828 Vicki! I — I Thought I Heard Your Voice 2019-03-05 – Sotheby’s, London
7 Lucian FREUD (1922-2011) 7 596 175 Head of a Boy 2019-03-05 – Sotheby’s, London
8 Kerry James MARSHALL (1955) 7 325 800 Untitled (Painter) 2019-03-01 – Sotheby’s, New York
9 Jenny SAVILLE (1970) 7 153 346 Juncture 2019-03-05 – Sotheby’s, London
10 René MAGRITTE (1898-1967) 7 051 928 L’étoile du matin 2019-02-26 – Sotheby’s, London
copyright © 2019


David Hockney retains his leading position in the Post-War & Contemporary art segment with a result of $49.5 million for his double portrait of Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, a highly anticipated work presented at Christie’s on 6 March. Hockney’s market is in full swing after an exceptional year 2018 in which his works generated $206.5 million, including a superb new record of $90.3 million (Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) at Christie’s on 15 November 2018. Currently the world’s most sought-after and highly-valued living artist, Hockney’s 2018 annual auction turnover gave him 6th place in our global ranking behind Basquiat and Warhol, the two undisputed stars of the Post-War & Contemporary Art Market. Indeed, as Q1 2019 draws to a close, David Hockney is not only the world’s most successful living artist on the auction market, he is also the most successful artist of all periods combined, having beaten Monet, Picasso and all the others great names in the first quarter of this year.

Meanwhile… another living artist, Jenny Saville, has confirmed her status as the most sought-after female artist of the moment. A few months after David Hockney took the secondary market’s ‘living artist’ crown (last November), Saville reached a record of $12.5 million for her canvas Propped (1992) at Sotheby’s in London. The sale of her rare works generated $13.2 million last year and 2019 has started extremely well with Sotheby’s hammering $7.1 million for another work on 5 March. This results confirms the artist’s current invogueness, even if Sotheby’s was hoping for a better score for this monumental nude carrying a high estimate of $9.2 million.

Another artist enjoying buoyant demand is Lucian Freud, whose current auction record harks back to 15 May 2015 when Christie’s New York hammered $56.1 million for his very fleshy Benefits Supervisor Resting. Indeed, Freud’s works are so popular that even small formats attract million-plus bids. On 5 March last Sotheby’s took $7.6 million for a small oil on canvas dated 1956 – Head of a Boy – measuring just 18 x18 cm… a record for a work of such small dimensions by the grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

We also find Kerry James Marshall among this year’s top results. Marshall is the second most expensive black-American artist after Jean-Michel Basquiat since May last year when his Past Time, revisiting Manet’s famous Déjeuner sur l’herbe, sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York (The MPEA bought it for $25,000 in 1997). The winning bid for this large canvas was made by the very popular Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy). Marshall clearly has the wind in his sails! His politically-conscious work is being supported by a number of major American collectors who are perfectly willing to raise the stakes. On 1 March, his canvas Untitled (Painter) tripled its high estimate at Sotheby’s to reach $7.3 million (including fees), his second best auction result – until beaten by a more imposing work…

Another remarkable result this past quarter came from Phillips which generated $20.4 million for Gerhard Richter’s painting Düsenjäger (1963). The sale came after Phillips had tried to sell the work in November 2016 for Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft, who died last October) with a guaranteed price of $24 million that was not reached. Phillips ended up paying the seller the $24 million promised following the refusal by a third party guarantor to honour its commitment. So… Phillips has at least recovered the bulk of its loss.

Gerhard Richter is of course one of the grand ‘unavoidables’ at prestige sales. In 2018, his annual auction turnover ($143 million) was higher than that of Joan Miro and Francis Bacon, giving him 11th place in our global ranking of artists by annual auction turnover. Phillips is continuing its strong commitment to this iconic artist and is currently organizing an exhibition-sale of his engravings in Hong Kong (Gerhard Richter: Editions 2005-2018, March 25 – April 12).

This latest TOP will no doubt be revised after New York’s prestige sales in May. Among the superb masterpieces on offer, a painting from Claude Monet’s famous Meules series is expected to fetch around $55 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art sale on 14 May.