After the COVID-sparked chaos of 2020, there was cause for hope heading into 2021. In-person occasions appeared poised to return, a chance that will kickstart an artwork world that had scrambled to seek out replacements for the expertise of viewing artwork in individual. The 12 months ended up being an expertise in compromises, incorporating each COVID-necessitated distance and bouts of proximity when doable, however the secondary market appeared unequivocally more healthy compared to the prior 12 months. Heaps as soon as once more rose above the $100 million mark after failing to take action in 2020 for the primary time in years, and new entrants within the realm of crypto-backed NFTs signaled hope for the longer term.
The most costly artworks bought at public sale in 2021 could also be largely dominated by acquainted faces—male artists from the nineteenth and Twentieth centuries—however that could be a sign that we’re coming again to enterprise as typical, for higher or worse.
1. Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932)
Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), 1932. Courtesy of Christie’s Pictures Ltd.
The most costly work bought at public sale this 12 months—and the one one to interrupt the $100 million mark—was Pablo Picasso’s 1932 portrait Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), which bought for $103.4 million at a Christie’s New York sale in Could. The intense-hued portray of Picasso’s muse Marie-Thérèse Walter bounded previous one other portrait of a lover, 1941’s Dora Maar au chat—which bought for $95.2 million in 2006—to nab the fifth-highest public sale end result for the artist. Femme assise had beforehand come up for public sale in 2013, when it bought at Sotheby’s London for $44.7 million; earlier than that, it had bought for $6.8 million in 1997. This newest hammer value represents a rise of greater than 1,400% from the portray’s authentic value at public sale, and bodes effectively for the modernist icon’s market.
2. Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case (1983)
Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case, 1983. Courtesy of Christie’s Pictures Ltd.
Christie’s marquee spring gross sales had been additionally witness to the second-highest results of the 12 months, when Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 masterwork In This Case fetched $93.1 million on the public sale home’s Twenty first-century night sale. In This Case is the final of Basquiat’s iconic trinity of “Cranium” work, which he produced between 1981 and 1983. The one different “Cranium” portray to return to public sale, 1982’s Untitled, bought for greater than $110 million in 2017—a end result that also holds as Basquiat’s public sale report and as the costliest work by an American artist at public sale. In This Case didn’t fairly attain these heights, however its mixture of wealthy reds, signature symbology, and, in fact, the enduring cranium motif was sufficient to push it previous all earlier work provided by the artist.
3. Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a younger man holding a roundel (ca. 1470–80)
Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a younger man holding a roundel, ca. 1470–80. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
One of many final privately owned Sandro Botticelli work hit the public sale block this 12 months, and made a splash doing so. Portrait of a younger man holding a roundel began the 12 months off on a excessive notice when it bought for $92.1 million at a January Sotheby’s sale, a greater than ninefold improve over the Early Renaissance painter’s earlier report of $10.4 million, achieved in 2013. The piece got here from the gathering of the late actual property mogul Sheldon Solow, who purchased the work for $1.3 million at a Christie’s public sale in 1982. Roundel’s stratospheric sale not solely made it Botticelli’s new public sale report: The work is now additionally the second-most costly Outdated Grasp portray ever bought, trailing solely Leonardo’s earth-shattering Salvator Mundi, which is at present the costliest paintings ever bought.
4. Mark Rothko, No. 7 (1951)
Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1951. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Mark Rothko’s No. 7 was dropped at public sale as a part of Sotheby’s sale devoted to the gathering of the not too long ago divorced Harry and Linda Macklowe. The Macklowes put up some 65 complete prized works by icons together with Rothko, Andy Warhol, and Lucio Fontana in an effort to extra precisely account for the pair’s funds as they head into divorce proceedings. This beautiful Rothko nabbed the best end result from the gathering, promoting for $82.4 million—making it the artist’s second-highest sale ever, trailing solely Orange, Purple, Yellow (1961), which bought for $86.8 million in 2012. The 35 items offered on this iteration of the Macklowe sale—the remainder might be bought in Could 2022—mixed to promote for greater than $675 million, beating out the gathering’s excessive estimate of $619 million and reaching a uncommon white-glove sale, with each lot bought.
5. Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez (1947)
Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez, 1947. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
One other work from the Macklowe assortment, this haunting suspended sculpture by Alberto Giacometti landed squarely inside its estimated value vary to promote for $78.4 million, reaching the second-highest value of the night. Le Nez, with its beguiling mixture of distended but nonetheless humanlike options and distinctive hanging presentation, helped push the sculpture into the highest 5 costs for a Giacometti work at public sale, beating out a 2010 sale of a sculpture for $53.2 million to nab the fourth-highest spot; Giacometti’s prime three outcomes are all in extra of $100 million. Le Nez bought to the 31-year-old cryptocurrency baron Justin Solar, who plans to donate the work to his ongoing NFT basis venture, which is targeted on establishing well-known artworks and artists on the NFT blockchain.
6. Vincent van Gogh, Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès, 1889. Courtesy of Christie’s Pictures Ltd.
This enchanting panorama by Vincent van Gogh was the breakaway excessive results of a Christie’s sale of the late oil baron Edwin Cox’s assortment of Impressionist artwork, with works by artists reminiscent of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, and Pierre Bonnard. Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès, with its mixture of signature Van Gogh motifs together with olive bushes, swirling gestural prospers, and highly effective swatches of cerulean and inexperienced, beat out a lot of sturdy items by Cézanne and Van Gogh himself to earn the best results of the sale and nab the number-four spot within the Dutch grasp’s present public sale standings. The opposite Van Gogh works that hit the block as a part of the Cox assortment that evening additionally bought effectively, with each Meules de blé (1888) and Jeune homme au bleuet (1890) blowing previous their excessive estimates. When taken together, these outcomes—and Cabanes particularly—sign a resurgent market curiosity in Van Gogh’s late-career works.
7. Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917)
Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas, 1917. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Van Gogh’s portray simply narrowly beat out this work by one other iconic Impressionist, which bought at a Sotheby’s spring sale for $70.3 million. Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917–19), which was included in the home’s Could night sale of Impressionist and trendy artwork, is a major instance of Claude Monet’s signature artistry, filled with languid brushstrokes and dreamy colours—and, in fact, his beloved water lilies. The $70 million ultimate hammer value locations the work firmly in the midst of the artist’s prime 10 public sale outcomes, dominated largely by related work of lilies, in addition to Monet’s different favored motif, the pastoral haystacks. Le Bassin—the fifth-highest public sale end result for a bit by Monet—trails the fourth-highest hammer value by $10 million, however stands a cool $15 million forward of the following end result, achieved by one other lilies portray at a Sotheby’s sale in 2015. This newest result’s a part of a promising upswing within the Impressionist grasp’s work at market: 4 of his prime 5 outcomes at public sale have been achieved previously 5 years, with the present prime lot, 1890’s Meules, promoting for $110.7 million in 2019.
8. Beeple, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS (2021)
Beeple, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2021. Courtesy of Christie’s Pictures Ltd.
The sale of this non-fungible token (NFT) for a whopping $69.3 million was maybe the most important artwork market story of the 12 months. The work—a composition containing works from the collection “Everydays” by the artist Mike Winkelmann, higher often called Beeple—was vital for being the primary NFT bought by a serious public sale home when it was included in a Christie’s sale this spring. Everydays began bidding at simply $100, however over the following few weeks, it will blow previous the $1 million barrier, ending up at a value round $9 million the day earlier than the sale ended. From there, bidding grew in leaps and bounds to finish up at this astonishing ultimate hammer value, one which landed Beeple among the many prime three most costly residing artists at public sale, alongside David Hockney and Jeff Koons. The ramifications of this stratospheric sale are nonetheless being felt, however the $69.3 million sale of Everdays will be seen as a blinking neon sign of the widespread eagerness for brand new modes of amassing and distributing artwork in our digital age.
9. Jackson Pollock, Quantity 17 (1951)
Jackson Pollock, Quantity 17, 1951. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
This prime Jackson Pollock portray from Sotheby’s sale of the Macklowe assortment greater than doubled its low estimate to promote for $61.1 million, within the course of changing into the costliest Pollock work to ever promote at public sale. The eight-foot-tall monochromatic gestural portray was the third-highest results of the sale, however nonetheless managed to shoot previous the earlier Pollock report holder of $58.4 million, achieved in 2013. It’s probably the most promising Pollock public sale lead to a while. In 2018, a lot of signature drip work bought for costs ranging as much as $55.4 million, however Pollock’s secondary-market appearances have lingered within the decrease registers within the years since. This sale bodes effectively for the Summary Expressionist icon’s market, and helped push the Macklowe sale to its estimate-shattering heights.
10. Cy Twombly, Untitled (2007)
Cy Twombly, Untitled, 2007. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
This vibrant untitled Cy Twombly portray from 2007 was one more work by a Twentieth-century icon that bought as a part of the Macklowe sale at Sotheby’s in November. The late-period work, which options Twombly’s signature gestural marks unfold throughout practically 20 toes of canvas, bought close to the highest of its estimate vary, hammering at $58.9 million and changing into the third-most costly Twombly work at public sale within the course of. A lot of the late artist’s present public sale standings hail from his iconic interval of manufacturing starting from the late Nineteen Sixties to the early ’70s, when he was producing extra muted, calligraphic works, like his present public sale report, 1968’s Untitled (New York Metropolis), which bought for $70 million in 2015. This end result, when coupled with the 2017 sale of a bit from the identical period for $46.4 million, might sign a rising market curiosity within the artist’s late interval.