We are all familiar with the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” however, true art collectors know there is a lot more involved in art buying than whether the colors in a painting will clash with their living room. What constitutes a “true” art collector? Of course, it is a love of art, and the desire to amass a collection, but it goes deeper. A true collector will want to know about the article he is purchasing, who the artist is, the legitimacy of the documentation and more importantly it’s significance in the history of the art world. Of course another big factor is price, which can only be based on what a piece of art is worth today, as no one can predict the future and what trends will become popular.
Experts say that in recent years there has been a new trend emerging with art collecting; instead of placing emphasis on the aesthetic quality of a painting or sculpture, the super rich art collectors of today are more concerned with the monetary value of their purchase. Instead of looking at art as something to be cherished, preserved and enjoyed, these collectors are looking for good investments. This in turn is pushing the price of art sky high.
That being said, Christie’s says that 2013 was a record year for art sales, with over $7.1 billion in art, jewelry and wine being sold, which they believe is in part fueled by the internet where people can buy and sell privately. Though most of the paintings listed below were purchased at auction, the most expensive sale was done privately. This year Christie’s handled 58 art sales for over $10 million, which goes to show that even in a flailing economy, the wealthy still consider art a necessity. Below is a list of the most expensive art sales for the year 2013. Mind blowing to say the least.
10. Picasso “Woman Sitting Near a Window”: $44.9 Million
Picasso is one of the most noted artists of all time and is credited with the invention of “Cubism.” Woman Sitting Near a Window, is a portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, whom Picasso met when he was 45 and she was 17. He referred to her as his “golden muse.” Their love affair is one of the greatest romances in the art world, and she was the inspiration for many of his most revered works. Marie bore him a child and committed suicide four years after his death of a heart attack at the age of 90 in 1973. It is said that Picasso went public about Marie through his work and it is she who turned his technique to the more sensual and colorful style he became famous for.
9. Norman Rockwell “Saying Grace”: $46 Million
This painting from one of America’s most beloved artists appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post’s Thanksgiving issue in 1951. Rockwell’s son Jarvis is one of the models in the painting. At the time, Rockwell was paid $3,500 for this particular work. Rockwell will always be revered for his ability to depict everyday American life. Aside from his infamous Saturday Evening Post’s covers, Rockwell also did covers for the Boy Scout’s publication, Boy’s Life. This sale set a new record price for Rockwell’s art. The buyer was not identified.
8. Mark Rothko “Untitled (No. 11)”: $46.1 Million
Mark Rothko is considered one of America’s most famous postwar artists along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Labeled as an “Abstract Impressionist”, Rothko refused to accept this and even refused to be called an “abstract painter.” It is said that “Untitled (No. 11)” just radiates with light from the inside of the painting. This work was done by Rothko in 1957 a time considered the height of his mature period. Rothko says of Untitled (No. 11), “It is not a picture of an experience, it is an experience.” Tragically, Rothko committed suicide in 1970.
7. Jean-Michel Basquiat “Dustheads”: $48.4 Million
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American-Haitian artist who received notoriety for his graffiti in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 70’s. In 1980 Basquiat had the great fortune of meeting Andy Warhol who was intrigued with his work. Between the years 1984 and 1986 the two artists collaborated on fifty large works, during which time Warhol went back to painting with brushes. “Dustheads” was done in 1982 and combines acrylic, oilstick, spray enamel and metallic paint on canvas. Tragically, Basquiat died from a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988.
6. Roy Lichtenstein “Woman With Flowered Hat”: $56.1 Million
Lichtenstein painted this piece of pop art in 1963. It is based on the Pablo Picasso painting, “Dora Maar”. During this time in his career, he noted, “The things that I have apparently parodied I actually admire.” Though typically, spoofs of another artist’s work are not easy to sell, “Woman With a Flowered Hat” was sold at a new record breaking price for a Roy Lichtenstein. It was bought by jeweler Laurence Graff for the whopping price listed above, in honor of his 75th birthday.
5. Andy Warhol “Coca-Cola (3)”: $ 57.2 Million
The iconic artist Andy Warhol has been credited with starting the pop art movement. One of our most famous American artists, Warhol combined his artistic talents with commercialism, advertising and celebrity culture. Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator, and was also a pioneer in computer generated art. The painting “Coca-Cola (3)” was hand painted in black and white by Warhol in 1962 and is considered one of his most iconic works. When asked “Why Coke?” he replied, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
4. Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog”: $ 58.4 Million
Jeff Koons is a modern day artist best known for his brightly colored sculptures that resemble balloons, or in this case a balloon animal, the type clowns create at kid’s birthday parties. This was one of Koon’s first balloon dogs with others done in colors such as green, red, blue and even a shiny pink. When asked about his fascination with the whole balloon thing, he replied, “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s an optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death.” According to the New York Times, this was the most expensive work sold at auction by a living artist.
3. Andy Warhol “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)”: $105 Million
“Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” broke all records for the most expensive Warhol painting ever sold at auction. Done with silkscreen ink and silver spray paint on canvas, the record breaking show stopper is considered somewhat grisly as it depicts the immediate after affects of a car crash including a body sprawled out on the car’s twisted interior. In fact, this controversial piece of art has only been seen once publicly in 26 years. This piece was done in 1963 and is signed twice by the artist. The buyer of this painting is unknown.
2. Francis Bacon “Three Studies of Lucian Freud”: $142 Million
This work by Francis Bacon is an oil on canvas triptych done by the artist in 1969. Francis Bacon and Lucian were both artists and friends. They painted each other several times. Bacon actually completed two full length triptychs of Fraud, with this one being the later one. The first one has not been seen since 1992. Done in three panels, they depict Fraud sitting in a wooden chair inside a cage. It is done in Bacon’s abstract, distorted style. Although the artist’s friendship came to an end in the 1970’s after an argument, the triptychs will forever live with the record for art receiving the highest price ever attained at auction. The buyer was Elaine Wynn, former wife of Stephen Wynn, owner of Wynn Las Vegas and a well known art collector.
1. Pablo Picasso “La Reve”: $155 Million
This painting was sold in a private transaction between Stephen Wynn, owner of Wynn Las Vegas, and American hedge fund manager Steven Cohen. “La Reve”, which is French for “The Dream” is another work that was inspired by Picasso’s great love affair with Marie-Therese Walter. It is believed that this painting was done in the time span of one afternoon, in January of 1932. There is a story that goes along with this painting, that when Stephen Wynn was showing the painting to his friends he accidentally put his left forearm through the canvas leaving a six inch tear. This resulted in a $90,000 repair and a re-evaluation of the painting. Still, it brought in a heart stopping price.