Dominated entirely by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, with Christie’s taking the first five spots and six of the remaining 15, the list has a combined value of $1,484,502,719. Taking a closer look at the top 20 reveals a total of 14 different artists, all of whom are Caucasian and male. It is also interesting to note that all but one of the sales took place in New York, with the exception being the Cy Twombly 1968 blackboard painting, which sold at Sotheby’s London.
The highlight of 2015 was the new world record for the most valuable work of art sold at auction, set by Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”),” which sold at Christie’s New York for $179,365,000.
Sotheby’s wasn’t without its major successes in 2015. The auction house achieved its highest-ever total for a sale of contemporary art in Europe with its July 2015 Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London, which realized £130.4 million.
And although Sotheby’s and Christie’s dominated the top end of the market, Phillips and Bonhams also saw successes in the middle and lower tiers of the market respectively, with both houses setting new records for a number of artists throughout the year.
2015 was also an interesting year for the online art auction scene, with the Berlin-based online auction house Auctionata claiming a new world record for an Asian work of art sold in an online auction, with a rare clock from the late 18th century selling for 3.37 million euros in June.
Click on the slideshow to see the top 20 most expensive works of art sold at auction in 2015. See below for a list the top five most expensive works of art sold by the big four auction houses, as well as the online record-setting sales at Auctionata.
1 $179,365,000 — Pablo Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger,” 1955 (sold on May 11 in New York)
2. $170,405,000 — Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couché,” 1917-1918 (sold on November 9 in New York)
3. $141,285,000 — Alberto Giacometti’s “L’homme au doigt,” 1947 (sold on May 11 in New York)
4. $95,365,000 — Roy Lichtenstein’s “Nurse,” 1964 (sold on November 9 in New York)
5. $81,925,000 — Mark Rothko’s “No. 10,” 1958 (sold on May 13 in New York)
1. $70,530,000 — Cy Twombly’s “Untitled [New York City],” 1968 (sold on November 5 in New York)
2. $67,450,000 — Pablo Picasso’s “La Gommeuse,” 1901 (sold on May 5 in New York)
3. $66,330,000 — Vincent van Gogh’s “L’Allée des Alyscamps,” 1888 (sold on May 5 in New York)
4. $54,010,000 — Claude Monet’s “Nymphéas,” 1905 (sold on May 5 in New York)
5. $54,010,000 — Vincent van Gogh’s “Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé,” 1889 (sold on November 5 in New York)
1. $28,165,000 — Francis Bacon’s “Seated Woman,” 1961 (sold on May 15 in New York)
2. $12,042,200 — Cy Twombly’s “Untitled,” 2006 (sold on October 15 in London)
3. $11,365,000 — Willem de Kooning’s “Untitled XXVIII,” 1977 (sold on November 8 in New York)
4. $9,237,000 — Brice Marden’s “Elements (Hydra),” 1999-2000 / 2001 (sold on May 15 in New York)
5. $6,885,000 — Domenico Gnoli’s “Shirt Collar Size 14 ½” 1969 (sold on May 13 in New York)
1. $4,639,699 — Wang Hui’s 18th century “Album of Landscapes” (sold on May 31 in Hong Kong)
2. $1,565,000 — William Wendt’s “Old Coast Road,” c. 1916 (sold on April 28 in Los Angeles)
3. $1,325,000 — N.C. Wyeth’s “.…Emerging into an opening that appeared to have been formed partly by the ravages of the wind, and partly by those of fire,” 1925 (sold on May 20 in New York)
4. $1,256,341 — Irma Stern’s “Arab in Black,” 1939 (sold on September 9 in London)
5. $1,077,396 — Lemuel Francis Abbott’s “The Portrait of Henry Callender standing in a landscape, in the red coat of Captain General of the Blackheath Golf Club and holding a putter,” c. 1760-1803 (sold on December 9 in London)
1. €3,370,000 (US$3,830,000) — Imperial Immortal Mountain Clock, Guangzhou Workshop, Qianlong (sold on June 20 — record for an Asian work of art sold in an online auction)
2. €875,000 (US$948,998.70) — Blue and White Meiping “Dragon” Vase, Kangxi Mark and Period (sold on December 18)
3. €237,500 (US$266,874.49) — Jusepe de Ribera’s “St.Augustine of Hippo,” c.1636 (sold on June 16)
4. €207,600 (US$235,310.43) — Fernando Botero’s “Naturaleza Muerta,” 1964 (sold on June 19)
5. €168,000 (US$184,567.73) — Marianne v. Werefkin’s “The Bridge,” 1929 (sold on March 25)
2. NEW YORK (AFP).- The famous psychedelic Porsche convertible driven by late rock legend Janis Joplin smashed estimates to sell for nearly $1.8 million in New York on Thursday in a frenetic five-minute bidding war, RM Sotheby's said.
It was a world-record price at auction for a Porsche 356, a spokesman for the firm said.
The custom-painted 356C 1600 Cabriolet model, dating back to 1964 and which had never left the Joplin family, tripled its highest pre-sale estimate of $600,000 in a five-minute sale peppered with applause.
Joplin -- who sang "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz" -- forked out for the Porsche but decided its original white finish too dull.
She had it painted red with a mural that included images of butterflies and jellyfish, as well as of Joplin and her band.
The auctioneer opened bidding at $300,000 before a packed room in New York with RM Sotheby's staff manning a bank of phones. In seconds, the price jumped to $600,000. A ripple of applause broke out when bidding reached $1 million and again at $1.6 million. In just five minutes the car was sold, for $1.76 million, including buyer's premium.
"Janis Joplin's 356C is without question one of the most important Porsches of all time," said Ian Kelleher, managing director of RM Sotheby's West Coast Division, announcing the sale earlier this year."It's a fantastic automobile that transcends art, pop culture and social movements, and is as groundbreaking and stunning as the renowned singer was herself."
Joplin constantly drove the car, which was parked outside the Hollywood hotel where she died of an overdose in 1970.
3. NEW YORK NEW YORK, NY.- Although the Asian art market has been grabbing headlines in recent years for attaining one record price after another, many parts of that market are still undervalued, says Lark Mason, chairman of Asia Week New York, which runs from March 10 to 19. "Although there is a superabundance of exquisite objects on the market, the focus by the press is invariably on the high end, leaving many less expensive works under-publicized," he says, adding, "For the beginning collector, now is one of the best times ever to acquire gorgeous artworks at very attractive prices."
One of the finest values today is in the realm of Japanese art, Mason says, in particular, works from the Meiji period-be they in bronze, ceramic or other media-as well Japanese woodblock prints and Namban wood and lacquer objects. Mason notes that, even in a market frequently touted as booming, there are still Japanese screens to be had for a bargain.
Carol Conover of Kaikodo LLC, points to a Japanese painting titled Skull Amidst Grass by Kunii
One of the most important and influential genres of art, which is accessible in the field of Asian-art are Japanese prints, more specifically, ukiyo-e (art of the floating world),"says Katherine Martin, of Scholten Japanese Art, whose exhibition is devoted exclusively to the most classic type of ukiyo-e, focusing on the stories hinted at by clues in the compositions. "One of my absolute favorites is a stunningly well-preserved print by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), titled Modern Specialties and Dyed Fabrics: Sound of Insects at the Bank of the Sumida, circa 1830. It's an amazing example of a print of this type,which is becoming increasingly hard to find in today's market. And yet, for all this beauty the print is priced at $3,800.
Also specializing in Japanese art, Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. is offering a contemporary carved and glazed stoneware tea bowl by Takemura Yuri titled Mysterious Spirit. "Working in a historically male-dominated profession, female contemporary ceramists are usually overshadowed," says Mirviss. "Takemura Yuri has beat the odds and has risen to renown at the notably young age of 36. Her distinctive interpretation of on a centuries-old ceramic form, the tea bowl, represents the quintessence of her style-the application of soft pastel colors to smooth, swirling designs adorned with polka dots and stripes. Her work is affordable now, priced at less than $5,000, but it won't be for long."
According to Erik Thomsen, Japanese gold lacquer works, such as the gourd tea caddy by Mizuuchi Kyōhei that he is offering, are under-appreciated because few collectors realize gold lacquer works are produced only in Japan, and they are not widely known or collected. "One can therefore still acquire enchanting items like this caddy, with high-quality work and a striking design, for the reasonable price of $4,900," he says.
Other good buys can be had in contemporary Japanese photography. "There is a great group of young Japanese photographers who have broken free of traditions, and their work is often under $2,000," says Laurence Miller of the Laurence Miller Gallery. He is offering limited-edition prints by Yoko Ikeda for $1,000.
Mason says that the less-noticed cultures of South Asia also offer uncommon value for the money. Early works of art from Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam include sublime representations of the international style of Buddhist art, often at a fraction of the cost of similar works from China.
Karsten Tietz of Berlin-based Buddhist Art Gallery adds that while "authentic pieces are considerably more expensive than reproductions, they are still bargains compared to other areas of Asian art." During Asia Week, Tietz is offering a silver repoussé Buddha dating from 1920 and priced at less than $5,000.
Even within the red-hot Chinese art market, there are categories that offer favorable openings for an astute collector. According to Mason, early ceramics are one of the most undervalued areas in the market today, as are the many examples of regional and provincial works in wood and other organic materials. Chinese Export works of art and porcelain, a trade that dominated the international economy for hundreds of years, also offer hard-to-resist opportunities.
Martha Sutherland of M. Sutherland points to another underappreciated aspect of Chinese Art. "Album leaves are a savvy way to collect more affordable pieces by artists whose larger works are exponentially more costly. One of the artists that I represent, Hsia Ifu, paints highly detailed miniature landscapes on various sizes of album leaves. His brushwork is so intricate that each time you view a piece, you find something new. It's priced at $5,000. I also have album leaves by the Nanjing artist Hai Tao that are painstakingly executed in the 'mo gu' brushwork style, which means 'no bones,' a method of building up multiple layers of wash with no discernible outline. It creates fantastic landscape forms, and the work is priced at $4,500."
Regional works of all types from Asia contain many treasures overlooked by the market, says Mason. The interesting mix of East and West found in Gandharan sculpture is often underpriced, as are the works of art and furniture created in the teeming trade centers of India, Indonesia and other locations where Eastern ideas met Western trade, resulting in a new-fashioned blend of cultures.
"Indian Folk and Tribal works are still quite undervalued," says Sanjay Kapoor of Kapoor Galleries. "The Nayak Period is still relatively early, yet not as widely collected as other, earlier, South Indian Dynasties-Chola, Vijaynagara, Hoysala and others-therefore the prices are very attractive. Casting techniques may not be as refined as the Cholas, but there is a lot of character in the bronzes-they still retain a bit of history. Our bronze is an exceptionally powerful and delicate cast and comes at a price less than $5,000."
Navin Kumar, of his eponymous gallery, says that within Indian painting, works originating from Rajasthan are currently undervalued. He is offering a gouache on paper made in that region around 1800. It depicts a maharaja riding a horse and is priced at $3,500.
Lark Mason concludes by observing, "I often find overlooked gems in even the most prominent sales-areas that don't quite fit the normal categories or that don't dominate fields of collecting. Although they tend to get passed by, these treasures offer good deals. In addition to dealer's galleries, auctions are a great place to find excellent values. As I've come to learn over the many years I've been doing this: The most surprising aspect of Asian art is the vast number of cultures represented. There is so much that can be yours without breaking the bank."