Andy Warhol art sales total $380m as pop artist leads in 2012

Andy Warhol was the world's top selling artist last year, as sales of his artwork beat that of former title-holder, Zhang Daqian.

Warhol Statue of Liberty
Warhol's iconic Statue of Liberty brought $43.8m as the top-selling example of his work in 2012

Warhol works achieved $380.3m in 2012, according to an Artnet report for Bloomberg, with Chinese artist Daqian sliding from first place in 2011 to fourth as sales of his work fell from $782.4m to $241.6m. The top Warhol sale was seen in November, when his Statue of Liberty sold for $43.8m at Christie's.

This change in the rankings can be attributed to economic and political uncertainty in China, which has reduced the country's demand for leading works by its artists. The prosperous postwar and contemporary art market, which prevailed in 2012, saw sales from the top auction houses total $1.1bn in November, more than double that of the previous week's impressionist sales.

As impressionist art shows a decline in popularity, Picasso lost the title of the world's most valuable artist - which was secured by his $106.5m Nude, Green Leaves and Bust in 2010 - to Edvard Munch, following the outstanding sale of The Scream in May.

London-based art adviser Wendy Goldsmith explained to Bloomberg why sales of Picassos had fallen from $366m in 2011 to $334.7m in 2012.

"Supply is the problem," she said.

There weren't as many good examples from the right periods coming up for auction last year. The market still loves Picasso. People just don't want to let them go."

However, the artist's all-time auction sales still remain higher than that of Warhol's, realising $5bn as of 2012. Warhol's all-time auction total reached $2.9bn last year.

Gerhard Richter became the world's most valuable living artist, after a 48.8% increase on 2011's figure propelled sales to $298.9m in 2012. The year also saw the auction record for his work set in November, as a 1994 work from his Abstraktes Bild series sold for $34.2m from the collection of Eric Clapton.

"It's been an incredible two years for Richter," Jonathan P Binstock, a senior adviser in postwar and contemporary artwork with Citi Private Bank Art Advisory & Finance, told Bloomberg.

"There's a consensus that he belongs to the top echelon of artists. There's intelligence in his market, though demand does tend to be specific for abstracts from the 1980s and 1990s."

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