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Contemporary art auctions soar by 35% at Christie's and Sotheby's

A surge of interest from 'traditional' buyers is behind a growth in contemporary art auctions, says expert

Contemporary art auctions are attracting a huge influx of buyers from the more traditional art areas.

That is the view of US-based art adviser Mary Hoeveler.

The former Christie's executive told Bloomberg that buyers are "migrating to the contemporary market from other more traditional art collecting fields.

"Demand for contemporary art has increased exponentially," she added.

Hoeveler's views are borne out by the 2011 figures for Christie's and Sotheby's, with contemporary art sales at the two auction houses up by 35%, according to a Bloomberg report.

Sotheby's won the battle for the biggest contemporary art sale of the year at the two auctioneers, when Clyfford Still's 1949-A-No.1 doubled its estimate to achieve $61.7m in November.

Yet both had to give way to Qi Baishi's depiction of an eagle on a pine tree, which sold for $65.5m at China Guardian in June, becoming the most expensive artwork of the year and setting a new record for a contemporary Chinese painting in the process.

Art critic Scott Reyburn believes art investors opted for safe haven "marque" names in the past 12 months.

"Collectors sought proven artists for investment [in 2011]," he told the publication.

Proven artists such as David Hockney, who has been one of the contemporary art scene's biggest names since coming to fame in the 1960's.

Clyfford Still
Clyfford Still’s 1949-A-No.1 sold for $61.7m at Sotheby’s in November

Hockney's work is in great demand: his Beverley Hills Housewife sold for $7.9m at Christie's in May 2009.

Yet there are opportunities to obtain investment-grade items connected with the artist for more moderate prices.

Hockney worked on the BMW Art Car Project in 1995. The long-running endeavour has boasted works by such luminaries as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons since its inception in 1975.

We have a Hockney-signed copy of the book commemorating the project available to you today for £495 (approx. $760).

Recent and related articles

  De Kooning art sketch auctions at Grogan and Company in the US | 4 December 2011

  Clyfford Still art scores $61.7m at Sotheby's 'best art auction ever seen' | 10 November 2011

  Important Modern art collection worth $21 million highlights Christie's autumn calendar | 22 October 2011

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Images: Sotheby's

Last updated: 2 January 2012