Ten Most Expensive Artworks

sold at Auction in 2018

Art sales of 2017 were marked by a new global record – the most expensive painting ever sold in history occurred at Christie’s art auction - a smashing 450 million dollars for Leonardo da Vinci’s "Salvator Mundi". Despite some rumors about its authenticity and long restoration, the painting was purchased by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and has been exhibited in the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi.

While international auctions of 2018 didn’t have such blockbusters, last year’s 10 most expensive artworks were a mix of Impressionism, Modernism and Post-war art. The world's top auction houses - Sotheby’s and Christie’s arranged big sales in February and May. Collectors fought over paintings; among those especially Asian art lovers, who continued to break in the top echelon of the auction world, both by securing major works at sales in New York and buying big lots during sales in Hong Kong and Beijing. Once more, the records were broken – a well-known painting "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" created by a British artist David Hockney, was sold at Christie’s in New York for over 90 million dollars. It is a world record price for a work by a living artist.

According to MutualArt data, top 10 most expensive artworks came from nine artists, only Pablo Picasso had more than one work in the top ten. The total sold value was 914 million dollars, even 90 % of top lots were sold in New York and 75 % of top lot value was generated at Christie’s, compared to 25 % at Sotheby’s.

 

10. Pablo Picasso

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1937)

Realized Price: $68,709,064

 

Picasso’s second appearance on this top-ten is an iconic portrait from 1937, which sold during the impressionist and modern art evening sales at Sotheby’s London. This masterpiece was created in 1937 and attributed to Marie-Thérèse Walter. The image of artist’s golden muse brought an embodiment of femininity to the period of Surrealism in Picasso’s art.

9. Willem de Kooning

Woman as Landscape (1954-1955)

Realized Price: $68,937,500

 

This dramatic canvas belongs to first-generation Abstract Expressionist. Willem de Kooning is one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century.  He developed a signature style that integrated vivid colors and aggressive paint handling with deconstructed images of the female form. The importance of "Woman as Landscape" is evidenced by participating in some of the most important exhibitions of de Kooning’s work in both the United States and Europe.

8. Constantin Brancusi

La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard) (conceived in 1928 and cast in 1932)

Realized Price: $71,000,000

 

Constantin Brancusi was a Romanian visual artist who was born in 1876. Many works by the artist have been sold at auctions, including "La muse endormie" sold at Christie's New York Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in 2017 for 57 million dollars.

From The Collection of Elizabeth Stafford, and purchased directly from Brancusi in 1955 during a visitation to his studio, this extremely rare work, the only existing example in brass of Brancusi’s stylized portrait of the Anglo-American heiress and writer Nancy Cunard, was presented at auction for the very first time.

7. Henri Matisse

Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923)

Realized Price: $80,750,000

 

Henri Matisse was a leading figure of Fauvism. In his paintings, sculptures and works on paper, Matisse experimented with vivid colors, Pointillism techniques and reduced, flat shapes. In "Odalisque couchée aux magnolias", Matisse entrances us with a luxurious painting of his favorite model, Henriette Darricarrère, enjoying herself in bright sunlight. It is an iconic painting which describes Matisse at his very best.

Despite an enormous number of works being available on the market, Matisse regularly commands very high prices. His top works sell for an average price of nearly 50 million dollars. This work by Henri Matisse from the Rockefeller sale also set an artist’s record. Bidding action at the auction drove the price of this canvas far up above average.

6. Claude Monet

Nymphéas en fleur (Water Lilies in Bloom) (c.1914-1917)

Realized Price: $84,687,500

 

Claude Monet was a founding member of Impressionist movement in the late 1800s. The artist was interested in depicting the effects of light and shadow on color. In each series, Monet painted the same site repeatedly, recording how the appearance changed as the light shifted. The key to charm of "Water Lilies in Bloom" is the fact that every lily in this painting is shown in full blossom. For Asians, that is a sign of luck. The Chinese have a saying that flowers in bloom bring good fortune.

Asian bidders have become fascinated by Claude Monet in recent years. After Picasso’s "Fillette", this erotically charged, watery and colorful composition was the most expensive lot at May’s auction of the Rockefeller collection.

5. Kazimir Malevich

Suprematist Composition (1916)

Realized Price: $85,812,500

 

Kazimir Malevich wrote a manifesto, "From Cubism to Suprematism: The New Realism in Painting", and founded the Suprematist movement in 1915. For Malevich, painting had to be free of political or social content, purely aesthetic, and concerned only with formal issues of line, shape and color. The painting – "Suprematist Composition" – represents a constellation of geometry and color in space with great asceticism. It’s one of the most significant pieces of abstract modern art in history, a revolutionary composition with a wide-reaching influence.

Ten years ago, this painting was sold for around 60 million dollars at Sotheby’s in New York. In May of 2018, "Suprematist Composition" was purchased at Christie’s by Brett Gorvy for 85.8 million dollars. The price set a new record for the Russian artist.

4. David Hockney

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972)

Realized Price: $90,312,500

 

One of the most iconic images of the artist’s artworks was inspired by the comparison of two photographs on the artist’s studio floor – one was of a figure swimming underwater and the other was a boy staring at something on the ground. During the visit to Los Angeles, Hockney was inspired by what he saw - blue swimming pools outspread over the whole area. A swimming pool in England would have been a luxury. Without realizing it, he discovered his greatest subject matter, and LA pools would become the setting for many of his major works of the 1960s and 70s.

One of the 20th century’s most widely recognized and loved works, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" became the most expensive work of art by a living artist sold at auction. The work had been previously owned by billionaire record leader David Geffen, who sold it to a private collector in 1995.

3. Edward Hopper

Chop Suey (1929)

Realized Price: $91,875,000

 

"Chop Suey" is the most iconic painting by Hopper left in private hands. This magnificent art piece embodies the psychological complexity for which his work is so valued. Hopper was famous for his ability to notice simple everyday dramas, revealing in ordinary places such as Chinese restaurants, vending machines and diners. Hopper’s characters, even when painted in groups, seem disconnected and lost in thought. The strong sense of distance is also related with light used in paintings, the light that reminds theatre spotlight.

This was the highest ever auction price for an Edward Hopper painting. The lack of Hopper’s art at auctions meant that the sale of this haunting piece was one of 2018 market highlights.

2. Pablo Picasso

Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (1905)

Realized Price: $115,000,000

 

In the spirit of antiquity, Picasso may have imagined his flower seller as a modern-day Flora, the mythical goddess of spring, flowers and blossoming. His Flora, however, goes against the type of the idealized and divine personification imagined in ancient times. Picasso’s new classicism manifests itself in plain, simplified curves by which he drew the girl’s figure, actually more archaic than classical, rendered with minimal modeling and details. The colors of painting reveal a tension between Picasso’s rose and blue periods, the strange flattened profile-perspective and the girl’s ambiguous expression.

The star lot of the Rockefeller‘s property, presented as the "Sale of the Century" at Christie’s house, Pablo Picasso’s rare Rose period masterpiece was purchased by David Rockefeller from the estate of Gertrude Stein.

1. Amedeo Modigliani

Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) (1917)

Realized Price: $157,159,000

 

In nude series, Modigliani represented the nude for the modern era, depicting his models as confident and self-possessed in their sexuality. "Nu couché" is a sensual image, the model’s gaze meeting the viewer in an outright and bold way. When the reclining nudes were first exhibited in Paris in 1917, the striking images caused municipal police to close the show. Today, the series is recognized as one of the essential achievements in modern painting.

"Nu couché", which is described as the most important of the artist’s sequence of early 20th-century nudes, had been given a pre-sale estimate of 150 million dollars by Sotheby’s. Its final realized price represented the second-highest price paid for a Modigliani in the last decade and the most expensive work ever sold by Sotheby’s.