The Highest Selling Pieces of Art in 2018

While 2017 was a blockbuster year for art auctions, with the $450.3 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2018 was still an impressive year in its own right. Last year was the Rockefeller auction, which was the most valuable single-owner private sale in the history of America. Here are some of the most expensive pieces of art that were sold in 2018.

 

Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani

Last May, this piece sold for $157,159,000. Reclining nudes by Modigliani don’t come to auction very often, so it’s understandable that this piece sold for such a high price. Soethby’s assigned the piece the highest presale estimate in auction house history. This also made it the most expensive item ever sold at Sotheby’s, and the fourth most expensive artwork sold at an auction overall.

 

Chop Suey by Edward Hopper

Best known for Nighthawks, Edward Hopper made headlines last year with the sale of Chop Suey. Hopper mainly used oil paints to create his artwork and this piece is no exception. Originally estimated to sell for $70 million, the instantly recognizable painting went for $91,875,000 in November 2018 at Christie’s New York. The piece even inspired a bidding war between Loïc Gouzer, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art last month, and Eric Widing, a specialist at Christie’s who worked with Barney Ebsworth to build his art collection.

 

Suprematist Composition by Kasimir Malevich

A 2-foot by 3-foot painting, this piece of art cost $99,320 per square inch, for a total of $85,812,500. Sold at Christie’s in May of last year, the piece was purchased by Brett Gorvy, the current co-owner of Lévy Gorvy and the former post-war chairman of the house. Selling above the $70 million estimate, the piece set a new record for Malevich.

 

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) by Pablo Picasso

In late February of last year, a single advisor purchased 13 Picasso pieces in a span of two days for the price of $155.2 million. A large majority of that total was spent on this portrait of Picasso’s golden muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The painting came out to $55.9 million, much higher than the $40.6 estimated price. Sotheby’s London held the auction and Lord Mark Poltimore did the bidding for Harry Smith of Gurr Johns.

What Pieces of Art Survived the Notre Dame Fire and What was Lost

On April 15, the roof of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught on fire. The fire burned for 12 hours before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. While the roof of the Cathedral and the iconic spire collapsed, not everything is a loss. A lot of the precious relics and artwork were able to be saved from the building. First responders and firefighters formed a human chain to pass many of the artifacts to safety.

 

According to French Culture Minister Franck Riester, many of the most vital artwork and artifacts were able to be saved. Many of the pieces will be moved to the Louvre to be restored or repaired if needed. The Crown of Thorns thought to be worn by Jesus during his crucifixion, and a 13th-century tunic believed to be worn by St. Louis, the only French king that was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

 

A number of other famed pieces of art survived the fire. The three large stained glass Rose Windows survived the fire and don’t seem to have suffered any significant damage. The Cathedral’s grand organ, made up of over 8,000 pipes with some dating back to the Medieval period, is also thought to be safe, although it may have experienced water damage while the fire was being extinguished. The copper statues of the 12 apostles are safe. The statues had been removed a few days before the fire to be cleaned and restored, as they were badly tarnished.

 

Four large-scale paintings of the apostles from the 17th and 18th century suffered at least part damage. A separate part of the Crown of Thorns is known to have been lost during the fire, in addition to relics from two other saints. The unofficial symbol of France, a Gallic depiction of a rooster, is in poor shape.

 

The status of many items inside the Cathedral is unknown. State employees have to wait 48 hours before being allowed to enter the building to be able to care for the artwork inside. The fate of a nail and piece of wood believed to have used in the crucifixion of Jesus are unknown.

 

Because the fire was mostly contained to the roof, it’s believed that the flames have not damaged most of the artwork inside. However, there may be smoke damage to the pieces. Starting Friday, some of the most significant pieces of art will start being removed.  

Seven Great Women Artists Throughout History

These seven women made an incredible impact on the art world.

 

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)

Cassatt was a painter and printmaker who is remembered as the only American artist associated with the Impressionist movement. Frequently, her subjects were women and children. Her famous works include The Mandolin Player and In the Loge.

 

American Modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

O’Keeffe was heavily influenced by photography. Many of her paintings imitated photographic techniques such as cropping and close-ups. Red Canna and Black Iris III are enlarged floral images that are typical of O’Keeffe’s work.

 

Painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Kahlo closely tied her identity, her artwork, and her homeland of Mexico. About one-third of her paintings are self-portraits, which often reflected her emotions surrounding events in her life. The Two Fridas show her conflicted feelings at the time of her divorce from Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

 

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)

Kusama is known for paintings and art installations featuring polka dots. She has also created mirrored rooms as art installations to explore the concept of infinity. In 2017, Kusama had the distinction of being the world’s top-selling female artist.

 

American sculptor Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907)

Lewis relocated to Rome as a young adult to pursue her profession in an environment that did not single her out for her color. (Her father was African-American and her mother was Native American.) Her work depicted neoclassical, biblical, contemporary subjects. The Death of Cleopatra is a masterpiece of realism and was commissioned to celebrate America’s centennial in 1876.

 

Printmaker and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)

Catlett was born in the United States but moved to Mexico in 1946, which became her home for the rest of her life. Her work depicts African-American and Mexican life and often has strong political themes. Her notable sculptures include Homage to My Young Black Sisters and Tired.

 

Agnes Martin (1912–2004)

Born and raised in Canada, Martin moved to the United States in 1931. While Martin’s early paintings are representational, her style evolved during her career. Eventually, geometric images featuring lines and grids became her signature work. Martin is sometimes classified as minimalist although her paintings also show the influence of surrealism, cubism, and abstract expressionism. White Stone, Little Sister, and Fiesta are some of her celebrated works.

How Blockchain is Changing the Art Industry

Blockchain technology is more prevalent than much of the public realizes. It is still in its infancy, but many companies are employing their own private blockchains. Public blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum are what most people are familiar with. Their advantages extend much further than the internal efficiencies promised by private blockchains. The art world is turning to blockchain to solve issues plaguing the industry. Some of the problems facing the art industry include:

  • antiquated property transactions
  • illegal activities
  • inefficiency in the auction process

 

Art is an international business. Buying and selling, as well as auction practices, need a blockchain based common ledger. It would serve as a neutral medium for international transactions to take place. But, blockchain technology is more than just a digital ledger. It enables elaborate new methods for data management. Blockchain improves value chains because of its distributed and transparent approach to record keeping. In addition to revolutionizing data management practices, blockchain shows a resounding proficiency to thwart both fraud and tax evasion.

 

Transparency is critical to the value chain of art ownership. Blockchain technology certifies transactions with tokens. Tokens transfer from buyers to seller at purchase. They transfer each time a piece is sold. Blockchain tracks the ownership record. This transparent and distributed ledger enables anyone to view the entire history of a piece. Fraud is minimized because any potential buyer can simply examine the owner’s claim via their crypto wallet.

 

Blockchain expects to impact all areas of the art industry. It directly affects:

  • artists
  • collectors
  • investors
  • auction houses

 

Artists, especially visual ones, believe in blockchain security. Uniquely coded virtual pieces represent a growing trend. These unique strings of code serve to authenticate purchases for collectors and artist compensation. Registrations are viewable alongside corresponding time-stamps. Auction houses are incorporating digital certification to improve operations through increased transparency and secured long-term records. Art investors have taken advantage of blockchain tokenization to promote fractional investments. Since ownership is ensured on a malleable digital platform, investors can purchase and liquidate pieces of art as easily as trading stocks.

 

Art records have historically been the subject of intense scrutiny. Blockchain technology brings a new solution that many professionals are praising.

How to Choose the Right Auction House for Your Art

The high end art market is dominated by three main auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. These three powerhouses have existed for centuries. When choosing an auction house from these three for your art, it’s important to take a variety of factors into consideration.

Guarantees

Obviously money is an important factor in selling your art. Many auction houses’ success has stemmed from their guarantees, which ensure that the seller receives the amount of money they expect for their art regardless of how much it is is sold for at the auction.

Guarantees, however, can lead to conflict, especially when the top three high end auction houses are trying to work with a limited number of the same collectors. Remember that money is not normally the deciding factor when collectors are choosing an auction house. Clients often place more importance on personal relationships and the auction house’s past record.

Relationships

Personal relationships are one of the most important factors in choosing an art auction house. These days, clients have a lot to be worried about: dips in the economy, terrorist attacks, and talk of price fixing. They’re looking for an art auction house that is reassuring, personal, and professional. In a consignment based industry such as art auctions, networking and word of mouth referrals are extremely important. Each of the auction houses have different connections with sellers, clients, and fields.

Field Speciality

Each of the three high end houses have unique specialties. Sotheby’s is known for their expertise in American furniture and photography, while Christie’s specializes in European furniture, as well as books and manuscripts. While to an extent Phillips is still establishing its business, the auction house seems to be focusing on Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary art. Phillips now also includes one of the top automobile auctioneers, Bonham & Brooks. The best auction house will have a specialty that matches your art.

Track Record

Past performance is another important factor to take into consideration when selecting an art auction house. Christie’s is one of the world’s top art auction houses. In 2000 they had $2.3 billion in sales! Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has won 20 of the top 25 single-owner sales. These included the estate sales of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It’s important to choose an art auction house with a track record that matches your goals.

When selecting one of the top three high-end auction houses, you need to consider their financial guarantees, the relationships you’ll be able to build, their field speciality, and past track record.