Art and photography: 2017 auction review

In contrast to the relative quiet of 2016, the art market exploded this year.

The sale of the last privately owned Da Vinci for the unprecedented sum of $450.3m confirmed that the top end is well out of reach for all but the super rich.

However, this exponential growth has resulted in increasing interest in second and third tier artists. A significant number of records were set for artists including Marc Chagall and Rene Magritte.

This trend looks likely to continue into the new year.

Top art sale of 2017

Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi topped this year’s list with a result of $450.3m.

Da Vinci

Salvator Mundi sold for an unprecedented sum

That's more than double the $179.4m paid for Picasso’s Women of Algiers in 2014 - already an enormous sum.

So are we going to see Picasso and Monet hitting the half a billion mark anytime soon?

We think that’s unlikely. The last available Da Vinci was always going to be a prize and it’s difficult to think of any artist with a comparable price point.

2017’s most important art sales


Klimt's Attersee paintings are among his most desirable

Gustav Klimt’s Bauerngarten got the year off to a great start in March, pulling in £48m ($59.3m). It’s a view of grasses and flowers in the Attersee, Austria where he spent his summers.

Van Gogh is one of the world’s best loved artists and original canvases are always popular. His Labourer sold for $81.3m in November, becoming his second most valuable work to sell at auction.

Man Ray’s Noir et Blanche belongs to an elite number of hugely iconic photographs. Lifetime prints (that is, those Man Ray printed himself) are among photography’s Holy Grails. One set an artist record of $3.1m in a major evening sale at Christie’s.

Marc Chagall was, along with Picasso and Matisse, one of the most influential European artists of the 20th century. However, his central place in art history hasn’t resulted in the big auction results achieved by his peers. That seems to be changing, with Chagall’s Les Amoureux achieving a record $24.8m in November.

Corde Sensible, one of surrealist Rene Magritte's less unsettling works, realised an artist record of £15.2m ($18.9m) back in March.

The most unusual art sale of 2017


Best stick to the writing Charles...

A plaster sculpture by beat writer Charles Bukowski more than tripled its estimate to make $2,160 in a sale at PBA Galleries.

It’s an interesting curio, but it’s probably for the best Bukowski didn’t give up the day job. 

It was a breakout year for…


Robert Crumb spawned the underground comix genre of the 1970s

Counterculture “comix” artist Robert Crumb set the market on fire this year, with several major sales of his work - including the collection of songwriter Graham Nash.

The year’s standout was the original cover to a Fritz the Cat omnibus, which made an artist record of $717,000.

It was a year to forget for…


Grande Femme II was originally designed for a building in New York

Alberto Giacometti’s Grande Femme II, the artist’s largest sculpture, proved a rare miss at Christie’s - selling for just $29.3m. That might seem an absurd thing to say given the enormous result, but Giacometti’s top-valued work typically sells around the $100m mark. 

One you may have missed


Ben Enwonwu's work is in increasing demand

African art is in increasing demand. Nigerian sculptor Ben Enwonwu is one of the continent’s most celebrated artists.

This year his Anyanwu sculpture, created for the National Museum of Lagos, made a record £353,000 ($441,285).

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