After staggering, record-breaking sales in 2015, the world’s finest auction houses were faced with a year of high expectations.
With nothing passing the $100million marker, this year’s chart topper only just made the top 50 most expensive paintings ever - however it still smashed the current record for works by that artist.
As the year comes to an end, we thought it would be fun to recap on 2016 with the Top 10 most expensive paintings sold, well as it stands on December 19 at least!
(Feature Photo Credit: Christie's)
$35 million, sold via Sotheby’s New York on May 11
A striking pair of self-portraits providing double representation, with a characteristic front-facing portrait and more unusual side angle. Painted in 1970, Bacon was leading up to his first big retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971 and reflects the energy and excitement he was experiencing at the time in his life, using an optimistic, European inspired palette. This year saw this work come to sale for the first time since it was sold in 1970 and was estimated to sell between $20-30million.
Francis Bacon’s "Two Studies for a Self-Portrait" is looked at in closer detail in this Sotheby's video.
$36.7 million, sold via Sotheby’s New York on May 11
One of Cy Twombly’s iconic blackboard paintings, this was painted during the years following his return to New York when he explored grey paintings after spending years painting vibrant pieces in Europe. This piece is the only piece that uses blue chalk in this famous blackboard series and really stands out in what is already a highly sought after collection.
This Sotheby's video takes a closer look at Cy Twombly’s majestic "Untitled (New York City)" from his famed Blackboard series.
$39.6 million, sold via Poly Auction Hong Kong on April 4
A renowned Chinese impressionist painter, Ruzhuo is praised for his talent to combine ancient influences with modern techniques, focusing on traditional brushwork and atmosphere of ink painting. Deemed as one of the world’s Top 100 living artists, Cui Ruzhuo’s eight panel masterpiece was snapped up for a record $39.6 million (almost double the estimated price), for a piece that was completed just three years ago.
Photo Credit: www.artnet.com
$54.5 million, sold via Sotheby’s New York on November 14
Coming close to it’s estimated $50millin estimated value, Edvard Munch led the November Sotheby’s auction for the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening. From a 12-painting series, this is one of two works that remains in private hands and is celebrated as one of Munch’s greatest masterpiece, setting previous auction records aside from the 2012 sale of “The Scream” which netted $112 million.
In this Sothevy's video, artist Eric Fischl discusses Munch’s style and why Pikene på broen (Girls on the Bridge) is one of his most powerful masterpieces.
$56.3 million, sold via Sotheby’s London on June 21
A captivating piece that was painted towards the end of Mogiliani’s short life, it features his muse and his lover who took her own life at 22, just two days after Mogiliani died from tubercular meningitis. One of his most accomplished and finished pieces, it demonstrated what potential and talent the young artists was gifted with. Instead we have what is one of the poignant love stories of 20th century art.
This Sotheby's video digs deep into the story behind the masterpiece, which is also explored in their blog post about the piece.
$57.2 million, sold via Christie’s New York on May 10
More than 16ft wide and over 8ft tall, this epic masterpiece is deemed one of Basquiat’s most accomplished works, loved for the way it exuberates such energy and passion – even at a monstrous scale. This piece topped the May auction in New York as well as setting a record for a Basquiat piece, with Dustheads selling for $48.8 million in 2013.
$58 million, sold via Christie’s New York on July 7
With a distinguished provenance and time stamp from the peak of Reubens’ success, Lot and His Daughters offered a rare opportunity for collectors to invest in a remarkable piece of history. Taken from the Old Testament, the tale of Lot and His Daughters was popular with a number of artists of the era, with Reubens returning to it multiple times.
$63.4 million, sold via Sotheby’s London on June 21
Femme Assise represents the time in which Pablo Picasso escaped the criticism and rejection of his works in France, in more relaxed, free parts of Spain. It is here where he pushed his boundaries and developed the early works of Cubism. Taking a portrait and treating it in a way an artist might a sculpture, he wanted to make 2D pieces come alive and during this time he produced a series of canvases which changed the art world.
In this Sotheby's video Pablo Picasso’s grandson, Olivier Widmaier Picasso, discusses the moment in Picasso’s career when he created a series of canvases based on the features of his lover Fernande Olivier. Five observations about Femme Assise are also covered in this blog post about the piece.
$66.3 million, sold via Christie’s New York on November 15
Setting a record in 2005 as the most expensive post-war painting every sold, this Willem de Kooning piece was back to auction again, with a sale that didn’t disappoint. Originally painted in a burst of activity from Kooning in the 1970s, this vast, energetic piece is understandably sought after.
$81.4 million, sold via Christie’s New York on November 16
One of the last in Monet’s epic Grainstack series, Meule not only set the record for 2016 but also for a Monet piece, with the last record being set in June 2008 when an iconic Water Lilies piece sold for approximately $63.6 million. In anticipation of holding an exhibition, Monet completed 25 pieces in 1890, recording the differences in seasons and time of day. With a passion to represent ‘moments in time’, Meule has a stunning effect which makes you feel the scene as if you were there.
This video from Christie's explores the story and meaning behind 2016's most expensive piece of art.
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