26 March, 2018

The Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017

With the auction market rebounding in 2017 - buoyed by record sales across Cars, Art, Jewellery and more, we take a look at the 5 most expensive artworks sold at auction in 2017. These Paintings sold for a combined $851.7m. 

1) Leonardo Da Vinci - Salvator Mundi (1490) - $450m

Just when you thought painting The Mona Lisa which is arguably the most recognised painting in the world was enough, Leonardo Da Vinci has upped the ante and now holds the accolade of his painting, The Salvator Mundi "Saviour of the World" breaking auction records in 2017 when it became the most expensive ever bought at auction. 

The Salvator Mundi depicts Christ wearing a blue robe holding a crystal orb which represents the earth. 

What's remarkable about the painting was that not the pre-sale estimate of $100m, the fanfare it drew upon being displayed but the controversy surrounding it. For example, it has been mistaken for a copy and sold for $45 in 1958.

Salvator Mundi's Journey to Auction:

  • Leonardo Da Vinci died in 1519 and it's estimated that he painted The Salvator Mundi around the same time as The Mona Lisa.  
  • It disappeared from 1763 to 1900. It was believed Leonardo's follower, Bernardino Luini had painted it.
  • In 1958 the painting was sold by Sotheby's for just £45 and resurfaced in Louisiana just over 50 years later.
  • Badly damaged and partly painted over, The Salvator Mundi was bought by a consortium of American art dealers for around $10,000 for it. 
  • It was extensively restored and became authenticated as a work by Leonardo after it was presumed to be destroyed.
  • In 2011, following six years of investigations, the work was confirmed as a genuine Leonardo work of art. It was the first discovery Leonardo painting since 1909.
  • Dmitry Rybolovlev, the president of AS Monaco, bought it for $127.5 million in 2013 which is subject of a continuing lawsuit.

There are still questions being raised about the authenticity. For example, the painting has been heavily restored, there is an object being used which at the time was not invented and there's the question of the light's refraction through the glass orb depicted in the image. You can read more about in our article "The Last Leonardo Da Vinci, or is it?" here

There's no doubt that questions will continue to be raised but isn't that the mark of an iconic painting?

2) Qi Baishi, Twelve landscape screens (1925) - $140m

QI Baishi became the first Chinse artist to join the $100m club with his Twelve Landscape painting. 

“The most influential of all the Chinese artists in the 20th century.” - Leon Wender, Chinese art expert.

Known for his calligraphy and brush painting, he created these ink-brush panel paintings in 1925 at the age of 62. These paintings were a gift to Chen Zilin who was a highly-renowned doctor in Beijing.

QI Baishi has not always been a painter. He worked as a carpenter before travelling throughout China in the early 1900's which is believed to be the inspiration behind his landscape paintings.

Each screen measures 180 x 47cm and depicts an eye-catching landscape. 

This is not the only set of landscape paintings painted by Baishi. Another set of the Twelve Screens of Landscapes was painted in 1932 as a gift to Wang Zuanxu. Those landscape paintings can be found in the Chongqing Museum.

3) Jean-Michel Basquiat - Untitled (1982) - $110.4m

Jean Michel was a graffiti artist who turned into an expressionist painter which explains the style of his paintings. 

His 'Untitled' piece portrays a black skull scarred with red rivulets with angry eyes and gnashing teeth. This is against a blue graffiti wall where someone has been performing sums.

“Tonight, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose works have commanded prices over $100m, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon and Warhol” - Grégoire Billault.

'Untitled' can be perceived in different ways. For example, it can depict the struggles of the artist who was a known heroin user or the struggles of living in America as its fierce depiction promotes poignant feelings of life in America. 

After the conclusion of the auction, Basquiat's work became the most expensive American painting and was won by the Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa who is a contemporary art collector. The oil stick, acrylic and spray paint painting will be displayed at a planned museum in his hometown of Chiba in Japan.

4) Vincent Van Gogh - Laboureur Dans un champ (1889) - $81.3 million

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most revered artists of his time. He lived a troubled life filled with pain and passion. It's said that he created over 2,100 pieces of Art which consisted of around 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolours, sketches etc.

Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well. - Vincent Van Gogh.

“Laboureur Dans un champ” was created during a one-year stay at the insane asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. The 1889 landscape portrays the view from the window of tVan Gogh's room in the asylum of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The painting illustrates his ability to find the beauty of nature. 

The painting was sold by the estate of Nancy Lee Bass and Perry R. Bass.

5) Fernand Léger - contraste de formes (1913) - $70m

Fernand Léger was a French painter, sculptor, and also filmmaker, Not bad eh?. Although, Leonardo Da Vinci's CV would probably trump anyone. Take a look at his many talents here

Contraste de formes was created not long before the start of WW1. The painting was well received and was regarded as a major work of Modern Art.

Léger became known for his style of painting which he started in the early stages of his career. He utilised a form of Cubism which he modified into a populist style and is regarded a popular figure in pop art.

Contraste de formes hit a new record for the artist which is almost double his previous best titled La femme en bleu.

The painting was in the possession of Hans Arnhold since the 1950s and had never before been auctioned in public before.

Honourable Mention - Andy Warhol - Sixty Last Suppers (1986) - $60.8m

Of course, there was going to be an honourable mention. 

This mention is quite fantastic because it got repeated 60 times! This work is by Andy Warhol which depicts The Last Supper.

Warhol used a variety of means to achieve the number of repetitions needed for this:

  • Popular images. 
  • Trinkets. 
  • 19th-century engraving.

He succeeded in generating close to 100 variations. He went further by making variations in orientation, scale and colour.

If you enjoyed our article on the most expensive works of art which sold in auction last year then share and start a conversation.

Also, check out our series which explores the 5 most expensive watches sold at auction last year.

Paul Newman was a well-known actor and avid racer but why did his Daytona shatter auction records?

5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017
5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017