Top Tens in Europe. Chapter 2: Belgium



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten Belgian bids.

If you were expecting to see kings of the comic strip or Belgian contemporary art champions like Wim Delvoye and Jan Fabre in the Belgian Top Ten, you would be wide of the mark, because Paris has the high-end strip cartoon market sewn up, while Belgium’s contemporary stars sell better in London than at home. The best of the Belgian market reveals a pronounced taste for safe investments like Old Masters, at levels that are relatively low compared with the global high-end market. The top ten bids stop at $3.8 million, with only four going over the million mark (while the Italian market, for example, posted ten). Belgium is bursting with art lovers, but has not established itself as a major centre in the secondary market. The size of the buyer’s premium – not far off the rates applied in France – prevents the market from really taking off there. The ratios of buyer’s premiums (costs added to the hammer price) are decidedly unappealing, amounting to as much as 28.8% of the hammer price in the lowest purchasing bracket: between €1,000 to €20,000.

Top 10 : the top ten Belgian bids.

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 René MAGRITTE $3818540 L’oiseau de ciel (1966) 3-/20/5-05 Bernaerts Veilinghuis ANVERS
2 Pieter II BRUEGHEL $3109700 Kermesse avec Théâtre et Procession (1604) 9-/19/6-09 Palais Des Beaux-Arts- Servarts BRUXELLES
3 Pieter II BRUEGHEL $2749900 Le combat de Carnaval et Carême 9-/19/6-09 Palais Des Beaux-Arts- Servarts BRUXELLES
4 Agnolo GADDI (Attrib.) $1766750 Vierge à l’enfant entourée d’Anges 1-/20/5-17 Vanderkindere BRUXELLES
5 Eugène DELACROIX $928340 Le marchand juif à Alger 0-/20/2-15 Pierre Berge & Associes BRUXELLES
6 Richard ORLINSKI $897328 Panthère Born Wild 3-/20/6-22 Louiza Auktion BRUXELLES
7 Andy WARHOL $644116 Jackie (1964) 1-/20/6-08 Pierre Berge & Associes BRUXELLES
8 Pieter II BRUEGHEL $619200 L’hiver 9-/19/1-09 Palais Des Beaux-Arts- Servarts BRUXELLES
9 Théo VAN RYSSELBERGHE $575778 L’Eucalyptus sur la route de Bormes (1911) 4-/20/5-17 De Vuyst LOKEREN
10 Donald JUDD $560406 Sans titre (DSS#260 Bernstein Bros 71-75) (1971) 0-/20/4-27 Pierre Berge & Associes BRUXELLES


In comparison with the world’s most competitive marketplaces – China, the US and the UK – Belgium lacks dynamism and seems unable to improve on its existing records. The absolute Belgian record is held by René Magritte at $3.8 million, while the Surrealist master has posted three bids higher than $10 million in the US and the UK. More significantly, this record of $3.8 million goes back more than ten years, and the next two results in the Belgian Top Ten date from the late Nineties, with two works by Brueghel.

The three appearances of Pieter II Brueghel (c. 1564-1637/38) in this ranking, and those of a 14th century painting attributed to Agnolo Gaddi, a work by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) and another by Théo van Rysselberlghe (1862-1926), bear witness to a marked preference for Old Masters and 19th century artists, rather than for contemporaries. The youngest in the list turn out to be the American blue-chip artists Andy Warhol and Donald Judd – though there is also Richard Orlinsky. A French artist born in Paris in 1966, who began producing sculptures in 2004, Orlinsky has achieved better results in Brussels than anywhere else, and even beats Warhol and Judd on site. Belgium is the stronghold of his market, generating 64% of his results in the sale room – including a record at $897,000 for a Panthère Born Wild gilded with 50,000 24-carat gold leaves, and embellished with diamond-paved eyes.

The Belgian art market has its paradoxes, with lovers of bling-bling and Old Master aficionados alike.