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10 Highest Sales at Major Auction Houses

  • Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening
  • Sotheby's Evening Contemporary Art Auction
  • Sotheby's Evening Contemporary Art Auction
  • Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening
March 31, 2015
Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

Lately it seems that, with every upcoming auction sale, there is a chance we will get the new most expensive art piece ever. The first four months of this year definitely brought numbers with a lot of zeros next to the $ symbol. On the list of the 10 highest sales at major auction houses from January to April 2015, there are two houses that prevail: Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Ten of the most expensive art works come from only six artists, as German painter Gerhard Richter holds three spots, Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat got two each, and Cy Twombly, Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana the remaining three places. The number one piece of the most expensive art belongs to the art collection of an anonymous US buyer, who got ahold of it in February for whopping $41.5 million! The numbers are in, so here are the 10 Highest Sales at Major Auction Houses so far in 2015 – totaling $177 million altogether!

Scroll down for a detailed description of all ten pricy artworks, as well as the table of all the pieces that did more than well at five major auction houses!

most expencive art, auction sale
10 Highest Sales at Major Auction Houses
  • Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter - Abstraktes Bild

Abstraktes Bild is the name of an oil-on-canvas painting by Gerhard Richter, which set a new record for a work sold by a living European artist. The astounding 3 x 2,5 meter 1986 painting is one of the artist’s biggest and most favorite works, which is why its value rose up to $41,5 million. It was sold to an anonymous buyer from the United States at Sotheby’s Titans of Contemporary Art auction sale, turning it into the most expensive art work of this year so far. Gerhard Richter is a regular big seller, and two more of his works made it on this list, so stay tuned!

Featured image: Gerhard Richter – Abstraktes Bild, 1990. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • Christie's

Cy Twombly - Untitled (New York City)

The 1970 painting Untitled (New York City) by Cy Twombly was the second most expensive art work of the list, sold for $26,9 million at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction sale in London. The piece represents one of the artist’s so-called Blackboard paintings, and it was purchased by a Chinese speaking bidder after a fair game with another interested party. The Cy Twombly painting shows trademark lines made in four rows of scrabbling with white wax crayon against a gray background, resembling a writing on a classroom chalkboard.

Featured image: Cy Twombly – Untitled (New York City), 1970. Courtesy of Christie’s

  • Christie's

Gerhard Richter - Vierwaldstätter See (Lake Lucerne)

Another Gerhard Richter painting was sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction sale in London. The 1969 photorealist painting, sold at $21.6 million to an anonymous buyer through Francis Outred, is the largest of a distinct series of four views of the Swiss lake of Lucerne, painted by Gerhard Richter. As large as 1.2 x 1.5 meters, it is the second most expensive art piece of the artist in the first four months of this year, attracting as many as three phone bidders during the auction sale. Compared to other colorful works, this one primarily displays shades of grey.

Featured image: Gerhard Richter – Vierwaldstatter See (Lake Lucerne), 1969. Courtesy of Christie’s

  • Sotheby's

Francis Bacon - Two Studies For Self-Portrait

At $20 million there was a Francis Bacon self-portrait, which sold for 41 times more than the price it achieved the last time it appeared at an auction sale in 1993, according to The Guardian. Created at the peak of the artist’s career, in 1977, it was described by Sotheby’s, where it was auctioned, as “an extremely rare example” of a series of “profoundly introspective” self-portraits of Bacon after his lover, George Dyer, committed suicide in 1971. The painting expresses Francis Bacon’s deep psychological trauma after the hard period he was going through in those years.

Featured image: Francis Bacon – Two Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1977. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • Christie's

Francis Bacon - Study for a Head

Going for one more place on the list of most expensive art is Francis Bacon’s Study for a Head, a medium size painting from another one of his dark periods, in the 1950s. It was sold to a phone bidder at $13.7 million, not bad for its first ever auction sale at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening. This 1 m x 76,5 cm oil-on-canvas was painted in 1955 and it follows the artist’s painful symbolic and horror-like artistic style.

Featured image: Francis Bacon – Study for a Head, 1955. Courtesy of Christie’s

  • Christie's

Gerhard Richter - Karmin (Carmine)

Yes, it’s another most expensive art work by Gerhard Richter. This one, 1994 oil-on-canvas, hammered $13 million at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction sale, a little below the estimate, if you can believe it – although Christie’s estimates are often quite aggressive. The square, 2 x 2 m painting is luscious and glorious in all color of its freely applied paint, preceding the next Gerhard Richter art piece on the list, but at number 15, which is the 1970 painting Wolken (Clouds).

Featured image: Gerhard Richter – Karmin (Carmine), 1994. Courtesy of Christie’s

  • Sotheby's

Lucio Fontana - Concetto Spaziale, Attese

The founder of Spatialism, Lucio Fontana, was one of the artists sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening auction sale as well. His most famous, but never-before-seen work, titled Concetto Spaziale, Attese, made in 1965, was sold at $11.4 million, becoming the most expensive art piece of the slash painting series. The work contains 23 razor cuts on canvas, Lucio Fontana’s trademark art action, and it was one of the nine works sold from “an important Swedish private collection” built for over fifty years by Anna-Stina Malmborg-Hoglund and Gunnar Hoglund.

Featured image: Lucio Fontana – Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1965. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • Sotheby's

Yves Klein - Untitled Blue Monochrome (Ikb 92)

The Master of the Blue, Yves Klein, did more than well at recent auctions, with three works in Sotheby’s evening auction sale and three in Christie’s selling within or above their estimates. The Untitled Blue Monochrome (IKB 92) sold at $8.3 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening, and it is also inscribed saying “À Jacques Duchemin avec mon admiration et mon amitié”. One of the most expensive art works of 2015 so far was painted on canvas in 1959 using pigment and synthetic resin in, of course, Yves Klein blue. It was previously sold in Sotheby’s 2006 Contemporary Art Evening sale.

Featured image: Yves Klein – Untitled Blue Monochrome (IKB 92), 1959. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • Christie's

Jean-Michel Basquiat - Three Delegates

Sealing the list of 10 most expensive art pieces of the first four months of 2015 are two Jean-Michel Basquiat works, both sold at $6 million estimate, one at Sotheby’s and one at Christie’s. Slightly more valuable was Three Delegates, a 1982 acrylic, oilstick and collage on canvas. The triple portrait was sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction sale to Jose Mugrabi, an Israeli industrialist art collector, who was the only bidder of the 1.5 x 1.5 m artwork. The work is said to have sold well beyond estimate, which was around $10 million.

Featured image: Jean-Michel Basquiat – Three Delegates, 1982. Courtesy of Christie’s

  • Sotheby's

Jean-Michel Basquiat - Campaign

First time at an auction sale, and a good one too. This 1984 acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen ink on canvas sold above Sotheby’s high estimate. It is a fine example of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s engagement in art history, politics and race. It is as intense and as expressive as the rest of his oeuvre, and a true masterpiece by then 24-year-old artist. Evoking children’s drawings and strong references of African American culture, the work is as visually appealing as meaningful in all its power. It was painted four years before his death.

Featured image: Jean-Michel Basquiat – Campaign, 1984. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

  • Sotheby's Evening Contemporary Art Auction

Sales Over $1 Million at Major Auction Houses

Artist NameArtwork NameLow Estimate $High Estimate $Hammer Price $Hammer High Estimate Difference [%]Hammer Low Estimate Difference [%]
Gerhard RichterAbstraktes Bild21400540305722004147338835.793.8
Cy TwomblyUntitled (New York City)Not DisclosedNot Disclosed26952548N/AN/A
Gerhard RichterVierwaldstätter See (Lake Lucerne)Not DisclosedNot Disclosed21584633N/AN/A
Francis BaconTwo Studies For Self-Portrait198719302751498020074108-271
Francis BaconStudy for a HeadNot DisclosedNot Disclosed13762814N/AN/A
Gerhard RichterKarmin (Carmine)138032102147166013149338-38.8-4.7
Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale, Attese764305010700270114379706.949.7
Yves KleinUntitled Blue Monochrome (Ikb 92)55029967031606830450418.150.9
Jean-Michel BasquiatThree Delegates7668450107358306017680-43.9-21.5
Jean-Michel BasquiatCampaign458583061144406011724-1.731.1
Cy TwomblyDeath of Pompey (Rome)613476092021405940995-35.4-3.2
Yves KleinUntitled Anthropométrie (Ant 9) 458583061144405706020-6.724.4
Cy TwomblyCrimes Of Passion I611444091716605553168-39.5-9.2
Gerhard RichterWolken (Clouds) 535013568787455553168-19.33.8
Cy TwomblyRome30572204585830524746414.471.6
Andy WarholSelf-Portrait383422553679155020781-6.530.9
Mark RothkoUntitled2975820446373045128841.151.7
Andy WarholFour Multicoloured Marilyns (Reversals Series) 382152553501354483204-16.217.3
Damien HirstLullaby Winter383422561347604177252-31.98.9
Ai WeiweiCircle of Animals/Zodiac Heads305200045780003815000-16.725
JEAN DUBUFFETBédouin sur l’âne (Bedouin on a donkey)19937972760642364046031.982.6
Mark BradfordBiting the Book15260002289000335720046.7120
Jean DubuffetL'heure de la hâte (The Hour of Anticipation)276064238342253333722-13.120.8
Edward RuschaI Can'T Not Do That17854922678238332255624.186.1
Lucio FontanaConcetto spaziale, Attese (il sole)15336902300535325703841.6112.4
Andy WarholDiamond Dust Shoes228900038150003052000-2033.3
David HockneyGreen Tide1834332275149829546847.461.1
Lucio FontanaConcetto spaziale, Attese15336902300535279693121.682.4
Yves KleinUntitled Blue Monochrome (Ikb 241)305722045858302681278-41.5-12.3
Yves KleinSculpture éponge rose (SE 207)92021412269522566877109.2178.9
Christopher WoolUntitled306738046010702566877-44.2-16.3
Lucio FontanaConcetto spaziale, Attesa6134769202142413508162.3293.4
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled291401138342252413508-37.1-17.2
Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale, Attesa1487910223186523124603.655.4
Andy WarholHector And Andromache (After De Chirico)10700271528610229914850.4114.9
YVES KLEINRelief planétaire bleu, (RP 17)13803211840428210677014.552.6
Michelangelo PistolettoDonna nuda che avvita una lampadina (Nude woman affixing a light bulb)12269521840428210677014.571.7
Richard PrinceEmergency Nurse214716627606422106770-23.7-1.9
Christopher WoolUntitled (P492)229291530572202069870-32.3-9.7
Gerhard RichterAbstraktes Bild229291530572201993444-34.8-13.1
Tom WesselmannGreat American Nude #4210700271375749199344444.986.3
Gerhard RichterSternbild (Constellation)1190328178549219404838.763
Frank AuerbachTo The Studios229291530572201840592-39.8-19.7
Christopher WoolUntitled183120027468001831200-33.30
Gerhard RichterAbstraktes Bild153369023005351800032-21.817.4
Alexander CalderUntitled122288827514981764166-35.944.3
Domenico GnoliPortrait De Louis T.119032817854921761933-1.348
Enrico CastellaniDittico Bianco122288818343321687740-838
Anish KapoorUntitled7668451073583164666353.4114.7
Howard HodgkinIn the Green Room8435301150268164666343.295.2
Thomas SchütteBronzefrau I183433227514981611314-41.4-12.2
Peter DoigCold Blooded609536914304160637475.7163.5
Tauba AuerbachUntitled (Fold) X152600022890001526000-33.30
Kazuo ShiragaUntitled180000025000001508000-39.7-16.2
Paolo ScheggiIntersuperficie curva bianca3834235367921506205180.6292.8
Alighiero BoettiMappa122288818343321504317-1823
Richard PrinceOedipus Complex153369023005351460196-36.5-4.8
Alighiero BoettiMappa del mondo - L'insensata corsa della vita (Map of the World - The nonsensical ...122695218404281383511-24.812.8
Georg BaselitzMalermund (Painter's Mouth)153369023005351306827-43.2-14.8
Andy WarholJohn Lennon (Green)122695218404281306827-296.5
Cy TwomblyUntitled107002715286101305610-14.622
Andy WarholFlowers917166122288812903255.540.7
Gerhard RichterKleine Tür892746119032812709236.842.4
Anselm KieferDes Herbstes Runengespinst – Für Paul Celan 611444917166125975437.4106
Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale, Attese107002713757491244469-9.516.3
Sigmar PolkeUntitled89274611903281226286337.4
Neo RauchReaktionäre Situation (Reactionary Situation)92021412269521199468-2.230.3
Sigmar PolkeUntitled (Triptych)996899115026811994684.320.3
Alexander CalderBranches Sans Feuilles7643051070027118332810.654.8
Julie MehretuInvisible Sun (algorithm 2)106820013734001144500-16.77.1
Lucio FontanaConcetto Spaziale89274611903281047737-1217.4
David HockneySteps with Shadow613476920214104610113.770.5
Kazuo ShiragaYugi613476920214104610113.770.5
Andy WarholTriple Dollar Sign75000095000010040005.733.9
Thomas SchütteVater Staat (Modell) (Father State)460107766845100009030.4117.4
Glenn BrownKill Yourself536792690161100009044.986.3
TOP HAMMER://41473388//
AVERAGE HAMMER://4253043//
January - April, Artcurial, Christie's, Sotheby's, Phillips, Bonhams - Hammers over $ 1 million

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Featured images in slider: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening. Image via privateartinvestor.comA scene from Sotheby’s Evening Contemporary Art Auction Sale. Image via antiquesandartireland.comFrancis Bacon at Christie’s Photo by Suzanne Plunkett Francis Bacon at Sotheby’s. Image via