04 November, 2018

2018's Most Expensive Art Auctions

2017 was a historic year for art after the Salvator Mundi stole the show with an epic $450.3m sale. You can read about the journey to auction for the Salvator Mundi here: 5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017.

It's still part of a larger $1bn legal battle which previous owner, Dmitry Rybolovlev, the owner of AS Monaco, describes as the largest art fraud in history. Rybolovlev claims his art adviser swindled him out of $1bn in overpayments of art from 2003-2014.

Now, 2018 wasn’t as dramatic as 2017 but there were still some new records and a few surprises this year.

5) Henri Matisse - Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias (1923) - $80.7m

At the time this painting was created by Henri Matisse, it's considered he was at the peak of his powers. 

This quite sensual piece uses Henriette Darricarrère as the subject amongst a brightly-coloured background. This setting accentuates her radiance as she relaxes in his studio.

Bought by the Rockefellers from famed modernist art collector Leigh Block, Matisse has masterfully combined balance and proportion to keep you locked onto the painting.

What else is quite unique with the painting is that fact that it's unvarnished and Matisse used a chalky pigment to capture the rawness of certain elements.

4) Claude Monet - Nympheas en Fleur - $84.6m           

A painting owned by the Rockefellers, they bought this work in 1956 whilst in Paris. They were informed that Madame Katia Granoff had acquired a number of paintings from Monet's son, Michel. After viewing her gallery, they immediately bought the painting.

During the autumn of Monet's career, he devoted himself to painting the water-lily pond that he created. Focusing on the changing relationship between water, light and reflections, you can put together a timeframe these paintings were completed.

Monet painted this in his famous Giverny garden during WW1. You can read more about his life here: Monet - The Impressionist Pioneer

In Nympheas en Fleur, you can see how the darker tones and brightness of the flowers can suggest it was painted in the late afternoon. Creating a series still revered today, the broad brushstrokes immerse you in the atmosphere of the painting.

3) Kazimir Malevich - Suprematist Composition (1915) - $85.8m        

Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) painted this moving piece in 1915.

A landmark painting, he ushered in a new era for abstract painting. Called ‘Suprematism’,

Suprematism is above all forms of nature and debuted at Dobychina Art Bureau to shocked onlookers. What this painting does is abandon the world we live and present its own universe.

2) Picasso - Young Girl with a Flower Basket (1905) - $115m.  

Picasso’s Young Girl with a Flower Basket became another one of his artworks to break the $100m mark.

Renowned for its draughtsmanship and poignancy, the provenance is just as impressive! Previously part of the stein collection, the Rockefellers acquired it in 1968. 

Picasso painted this during the rose period which is known as the time he overcame depression and started using warmer colours. Paintings from this era are coveted by collectors and it sparked rumours of a $100m+ sale.

The rose period was relatively short-lived and lasted less than three years. You can read more about his life here: The Story of Pablo Picasso.

1) Amedeo Modigliani -“Nu couché (Sur le côté gauche)" (1917) - $157.2m

Amedeo Modigliani set a new record for a pre-sale estimate when his artwork, “Nu couché (Sur le côté gauche)" was given a $150m estimate.

The actual record for a pre-sale estimate was the £140m estimate given to Picasso’s "Les femmes d'Alger (version O)" in 2015.

'Nu couché (Sur le côté gauche)' which translates to 'lying naked on the left-side', depicts a woman lying nude and is one of 9 still in private hands. The rest can be found in museums around the world.

Trivia - The best-selling nude by Modigliani sold for $170.4m.

Bidding started at $125m before it sold for $157.2 million. Although it's not a record sale for the artist, it did net current owner, John Magnier, a tidy profit after he bought the artwork for $26.9m in 2003! 

Final Words

The Rockefeller's may have dominated this year's record art sales but the story behind each one is quite unique.

Kazimir Malevich's telling of a new universe invokes so many questions about our view of the world. Monet's iconic water-lily series teaches us the power of depth and vision.

Finally, Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse teach us about using the right subject to capture a certain feeling and creating an alluring background to make us question it each time we see it. 

2019 will be another year of records and stories and we look forward to writing about it!

Three of these paintings were part of the same auction held by the Rockefeller family. Reaching over $800m in sales, you can read about the sale here: Massive $800m Art Auction of Rockefeller Art.

Biggest Art Auction Sales - 2018
Biggest Art Auction Sales - 2018
Biggest Art Auction Sales - 2018
Biggest Art Auction Sales - 2018
Biggest Art Auction Sales - 2018