ARTS & CULTURE

2011 Auction Round-Up: Who's on Top and Who Flopped (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

08/13/2011 05:31 am ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

Via Mutual Art

As global markets dropped sharply on Monday over fears from the US’s new credit rating, the art market could not escape the plummet unscathed; Sotheby’s shares alone reportedly dived as much as 20% during the day, closing 13% down. Yet despite the recent stock market tumble, the first half of 2011 has continued to bolster art market confidence that the auction floor has managed to recover following the global financial meltdown of 2008.

During a recent conference call, Sotheby’s CEO William Rupert announced “the best quarter in Sotheby’s history” and said he believes “market volatility” around the world “in other arenas” has further encouraged art market investment. Last week Sotheby’s reported consolidated sales of a record $3.4 billion in the first half of 2011, up 54% from last year in the 2nd quarter. Christie’s previously released its six-month total of $3.2 billion, up 15% from last year.

As the art world now anxiously awaits to see how severely the global market downturn will affect its recent re-stabilization, MutualArt took the chance to look back and get caught up for the fall auction season. Gear up for September with a review of the top lots, steepest flops and biggest shocks so far of the year.

Top 10 Best Selling Lots

Francesco Guardi managed to overcome the supremacy of Picasso and capture the top slot, achieving the highest hammer price so far this year. Picasso’s buying power held strong though in second place and with two lots in the top ten. The only other artist with more than one lot here is Francis Bacon, whose work enjoyed a remarkable market comeback this year.

1) £26,697,250 - Francesco Guardi, Venice, a view of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, (pictured below) oil on canvas, executed in the late 1760s. World auction record for Venetian view painting; World auction record for the artist; Highest price paid at an international auction house in 2011; Second highest price paid ever for an Old Master painting. (Sotheby’s London, 7/6/2011)

2) £25,241,250 - Pablo Picasso, La Lecture, oil on panel, 1932. (Sotheby’s London, 2/8/2011)

3) £24,681,250 - Egon Schiele, HÄUSER MIT BUNTER WÄSCHE (VORSTADT II), oil on canvas, 1914. World auction record for the artist. (Sotheby’s London, 6/22/2011)

4) $38,442,500 - Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, in four parts, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1963-64. Highest price ever paid for a portrait by the artist. (Christie’s NY, 5/11/2011)

5) £23,001,250 - Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud, oil on canvas, 1964. (Sotheby’s London, 2/10/2011)

6) £22,441,250 - George Stubbs, Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a trainer, a jockey and a stable lad, oil on canvas, circa 1765. World auction record for the artist. (Christie’s King Street, 7/5/2011)

7) $33,682,500 - Mark Rothko, Untitled No. 17, oil on canvas, 1961. (Christie’s New York, 5/11/2011)

8) $29,202,500 - Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC, oil on panel, 1883. (Sotheby’s New York, 5/5/2011)

9) £17,961,250 - Pablo Picasso, Femme assise, robe bleue, oil on canvas, 1939. (Christie’s King Street, 6/21/2011)

10) £17,961,250 - Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, (auction video below) oil on canvas, 1953. Second-highest price for any work in this category at Christie’s London. (Christie’s King Street, 6/28/2011)

Honorable Mention for Phillips de Pury & Co:
12) $26,962,500 - Andy Warhol, Liz #5 (Early Colored Liz), silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen, 1963. (Phillips NY, Upper East Side, 5/12/2011)

Top 10 Most Disappointing Lots

Monet was noticeably absent from the best-selling list, and unfortunately appears here twice for unsold lots. Other lots by blue-chips artists failed to sell or sold below their low estimates as buyers remained cautious, ignoring often over-enthusiastic auction house catalogs and paying close attention to the artworks’ condition.

1) Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait, (above left) sold below the $30,000,000-40,000,000 estimate for $27,522,500 (Christie’s New York, 5/11/2011)

2) Claude Monet’s Nymphéas, Not sold against an estimate of £17,000,000-24,000,000 (Christie’s King Street, 6/21/2011)

3) Pablo Picasso’s Femmes lisant (Deux personnages), sold below the $25,000,000-35,000,000 estimate for $21,362,500 (Sotheby’s New York, 5/3/2011)

4) Jeff Koon’s Pink Panther, (above middle) sold below the $20,000,000-30,000,000 estimate for $16,882,500 (Sotheby’s New York, 5/10/2011)

5) Claude Monet’s Iris mauves, Not sold against an estimate of $15,000,000-20,000,000 (Christie’s New York, 5/4/2011)

6) Robert Rauschenberg’s The Tower, Not sold against an estimate of $12,000,000-18,000,000 (Christie’s New York, 5/11/2011)

7) Pablo Picasso’s Couple à la guitare, sold below the $10,000,000-15,000,000 estimate for $9,602,500 (Sotheby’s New York, 5/3/2011)

8) Francis Bacon’s Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), sold below the $10,000,000-15,000,000 estimate for $9,602,500 (Christie’s New York, 5/11/2011)

9) Paul Gauguin’s Nature morte à "L'Espérance", Not sold against an estimate of £7,000,000-10,000,000 (Christie’s King Street, 2/9/2011)

10) Thomas Gainsborough’s Portrait of Colonel John Bullock, (above right) Not sold against an estimate of £3,500,000-5,000,000 (Chrsitie’s King Street, 7/5/2011)

Top 10 Most Surprising Lots

Old Master and Asian artists enjoyed relative success these six months, fetching enthusiastic bidding in their categories. At Christie’s alone, sales in Asia totalled £296 million ($482.5 million), up 48% while sales in America remained down. The trend towards Asian art and increasing buying power from Asian collectors is clearly evident from this list.

1) Rome, The Castel Sant'Angelo and the river Tiber from the south by Gaspar van Wittel. Sold for £718,850 - 3,494% above estimate (Sotheby’s London, 7/7/2011)

2) 1985-4 by Yu Youhan. Sold for HK$14,100,000 - 2,720% above estimate (Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 4/3/2011)

3) Appearance of Crosses 90-6 by Ding Yi. Sold for HK$17,460,000 - 2,394% above estimate (Sotheby’s Hong Kong,
4/3/2011)

4) GRAYGROUND by Ronald Ventura. Sold for HK$8,420,000 - 2,306% above estimate (Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 4/4/2011)

5) Spring Calling by Wu Guanzhong. Sold for HK$17,460,000 - 1,646% above estimate (Christie’s Hong Kong, 5/31/2011)

6) Sans Titre by Wols. Sold for £2,617,250 - 1,645% above estimate (Sotheby’s London, 2/10/2011)

7) Autumn in the Village by Lin Fengmian. Sold for HK$23,060,000 - 1,318% above estimate (Christie’s Hong Kong, 5/31/2011)

8) Series "X"? No. 3 by Zhang Peili. Sold for HK$23,060,000 - 1,153% above estimate (Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 4/3/2011)

9) Lotus and Landscape along Highway Hengguan by Zhang Daqian. Sold for HK$56,660,000 and HK$52,180,000, respectively - 809% and 745% above estimate (Christie’s Hong Kong, 5/31/2011)

10) The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (pictured below). Sold for $29,202,500 - 484% above estimate (Sotheby’s New York, 5/5/2011)

Written and Compiled by MutualArt.com Staff

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