As 2015 is about the end, and we are all excitingly expecting 2016, here in Widewalls, we are recapitulating the year behind us, and we are presenting the most interesting news of 2015, the most interesting Widewalls articles, and so on; now, the time has come to take a look what were the most expensive art pieces sold at major auction houses in 2015. Yes, it seems that we might see total art sales at auctions to fell comparing with 2014, but we will have to wait to see the final reports. However, there is no way to say 2015 was not exciting and interesting when it comes to big auction sales – we saw a record-breaking sales!
There were two big series of auctions sales – the first one in spring, the second one in fall. In May, we saw some remarkable sales, particularly at Christie’s and Sotheby’s New York. Two exciting weeks of auctions of Impressionism and Modern art, and Post-War and Contemporary art was worth more than $2.6 billion and brought many world records – the most famous one being a $179 million sale of Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) at Christie’s, which is the new world record for an artwork sold at an auction (for more details about big auction sales in spring 2015, please read our article Sales Trends from Spring Auctions 2015). On the other hand, fall auctions also saw a number of breathtaking sales, with couple of record-breaking ones (for more detailed analysis of the fall auctions, please read our article New York November Auctions 2015 Analysis – The Decline of Guarantees). Still, we don’t want to focus only on Sotheby’s and Christie’s. So, let us not analyze any further in this article, but let’s see – what were the most expensive art pieces sold at major auction houses in 2015. Scroll down, and find out!
In Shirt Collar Size 14 ½, Domenico Gnoli manages to uncover a fresh and original component of the painted medium with a sculptural dimension similar to Baroque artist Lorenzo Bernini’s perfection of the details in his marble masterpieces. In this one painting, Gnoli combines the multiple conceptual informants of painting and sculpture, these “radically different” media, while never diluting one or the other, nor conflating the two.
For more information about the sale and the artwork, please click here!
Brice Marden’s Elements (Hydra), 1999-2001, is the culmination of his decades-long evolution as a pioneering artist whose influences range from the lyricism and structure of Chinese calligraphy and poetry to the undiluted and un-tempered expression of Jackson Pollock. The sinuous whorls of red, yellow and blue course across the green-grey picture plane, framing organic forms and creating an overall impression of fluidity and natural, gestural abstraction.
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Willem de Kooning‘s Untitled XXVIII, 1977, rendered in creamy yellows, crisp whites and sky blues, seizes a glimpse of the landscape in an inspired attempt to hold onto the temporal chaos of the sand, wind, and sky. Untitled XXVIII fuses the anthropomorphic and the natural, the abstracted landscape containing incipient human shapes. The underpinning of every canvas, every visceral brush stroke, whether figural or natural, reveals de Kooning’s impulsive painterly actions.
Cy Twomly’s Untitled from 2006 is from a series of paintings which were all completed in the autumn of 2006 in Cy Twombly’s hometown of Lexington, Virginia. These works mark the final stage of the artist’s prolific painterly career, and as such act as emphatic illustrations of the artist’s mature style. Moreover, the eloquent marriage of several key styles that defined parts of his artistic development imbues the work with further importance. The monochrome background, the single line, the overlapping loops and the raw red pigment all represent an element from his many series’ of works but here they are presented in symbiotic harmony.
For more info on Twombly’s Untitled 2006, please click here!
In this masterpiece from 1961, a deeply personal and vigorous portrait of Madame Muriel Belcher is presented. Muriel, whose fiery and vivacious personality was known by all, is captured here by Francis Bacon in what can only be defined as pure and unapologetic splendor. Before us is a seated woman; her shoulders melt together, as her body – soft and supple – pours itself forward toward her viewer. Her flesh, a rich combination of pinks, greys, and tinges of purple, embodies the master’s famed technique and unrivaled mastery of pigment and brushwork. She is suspended between three swaths of color: lavender, charcoal and emerald green. Through her poignant gaze, she looks to us, almost begging for her mysteries of past, present, and future to be revealed.
Vincent van Gogh’s dramatically atmospheric Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé is one of the finest of the artist's Arles landscapes. Painted amidst the most fruitful period of the artist's career, when his canvases were flooded with rich passages of densely-painted color, the composition depicts a verdant field under threat of an explosive rainstorm. Van Gogh creates a scene of intense anticipation here, replete with psychological drama as the laborers hurry to finish their work before the heavens rain down upon them.
Claude Monet‘s Nympheas are amongst the most iconic and celebrated Impressionist paintings. The profound impact the series has made on the evolution of Modern Art marks them out as Monet’s greatest achievement. The famous lily pond in his garden at Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major late works, recording the changes in his style and his constant pictorial innovations.
A majestic allée at the peak of its autumnal splendor is the subject of Van Gogh's magnificent L'Allée des Alyscamps, his Arles-period painting from November 1, 1888. This was the very moment in Van Gogh's career when his most legendary expressions of great beauty and exuberance were captured on canvas.
For more information about the sale and the piece, click here!
Pablo Picasso's extraordinary La Gommeuse is among the rare and coveted pictures created during the artist's Blue Period (1901-1904). The painting dates from the second half of 1901, following Picasso's widely-praised exhibition at Vollard's gallery that June and amidst the sobering aftermath of his friend Casagemas' suicide earlier in the year. La Gommeuse depicts a gorgeous cabaret performer whose very body defines the perverse beauty of the age — she is both temptation and downfall incarnate, a high priestess of melancholy and a siren of joie de vivre.
Read more about La Gommeuse here!
Cy Twombly’s iconic blackboard paintings are purely about technique, line and the act of painting. Untitled (New York City) from 1968 is the most mature from this ground-breaking series for its complexity and its monumental scale.
More information about the piece and sale you can find here!
Painted in 1958, when the artist was at the height of his artistic and critical achievements, Mark Rothko’s No. 10 represents the pinnacle of his alchemical prowess. Using the most basic of artistic materials—canvas, oil and pigment—Rothko is able to create a painting that appears to glow with a supranatural luminescence, the result of a surface that fizzles with painterly energy. Rothko’s paintings are extraordinarily contemplative and he wanted the people who stood before them to undergo an almost religious experience. For him, a painting was not the record of an experience—it was the experience, and within the echelons of this monumental painting, Rothko is not only able to summon up an object of extraordinary beauty, he is also able to connect us with the basic emotions that make us human.
Painted at the height of his career, Roy Lichtenstein’s Nurse is a dazzling masterpiece—a celebration of the bold new imagery that changed the direction of art. The subject of this painting stands alongside Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy as one of a distinguished group of icons who take their place in the history of figurative painting. Initially titled Frightenedness, the protagonist symbolizes her profession, however when seen through Lichtenstein’s prism, her anxious gaze and hand raised nervously upwards towards her face displays a palpable sense of drama that infuses the narrative with a sense of fear and foreboding.
L'Homme au doigt (Pointing Man) or (Man Pointing) is a 1947 bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, and today it is the most expensive sculpture ever sold! Christie's called it a "rare masterpiece", and "Giacometti’s most iconic and evocative sculpture", and estimated that it would sell "in the region of $130 million". Christie's also noted that the cast in their auction is believed to be the only one that Giacometti "painted by hand in order to heighten its expressive impact".
For more info about the artwork and the sale, click here!
The painting is one of a famous series of nudes that Amedeo Modigliani painted in 1917 under the patronage of his Polish dealer Léopold Zborowski. It is believed to have been included in Modigliani's first and only art show in 1917, at the Galerie Berthe Weill, which was shut down by the police. Christie's lot notes for their November 2015 sale of the painting observed that this group of nudes by Modigliani served to reaffirm and reinvigorate the nude as a subject of modernist art. This is among the most expensive paintings ever sold.
And the winner is Pablo Picasso – Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’). The painting achieved a record price for a painting at auction. Even before the auction, it was expected to set a world record price for a work of art at auction. The painting is the final one of the Les Femmes d’Alger series, and it was painted in 1955. The series was inspired by Eugène Delacroix's 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement). The series is one of several painted by Picasso in tribute to artists that he admired.
Featured Images: Domenico Gnoli – Shirt Collar Size 14 ½ (courtesy of kafkasapartment.tumblr.com); Brice Marden – Elements (Hydra) [courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk]; Willem de Kooning - Untiled XXVIII, detail; Cy Twombly - Untitled, 2006 (courtesy of www.blouinartinfo.com); Featured Image: Francis Bacon - Seated Woman, detail; Vincent van Gogh – Paysage sous un ciel mouvemente, detail (courtesy of Sotheby's); Claude Monet – Nympheas, detail (courtesy of Sotheby's); Vincent van Gogh – L’Allee des Alyscamps, detail (courtesy of Sotheby's); Pablo Picasso – La Gommeuse, detail (courtesy of Sotheby's); Cy Twombly – Untitled (New York City), detail (courtesy of Sotheby's); Mark Rothko – No.10 (courtesy of pratak-monodosico.tumblr).com; Roy Lichtenstein – Nurse (courtesy of www.artlinked.com); Alberto Giacometti – L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man); Amadeo Modigliani - Nu Couche; Pablo Picasso – Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (courtesy of www.visualnews.com). All Images used for illustrative purposes only.
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