Paul Fraser Collectibles' Top Five contemporary artists at auction
What recession? The $6.8m sale of Urs Fischer's huge lamp/bear at Christie's last week suggests that collectors and investors in modern art aren't letting the world's financial state alter their spending, or their taste.

Yes sir, art is big business, and the works of 20th and 21st century artists lead the way when it comes to the top prices in the sales room. Here is our list of the top five selling modern artists at auction.

Qi Baishi

China has become a strong presence in the art market in recent years thanks to its booming economy, which has seen the emergence of high-end art investors.

Qi Baishi’s artwork made $65.5m
in May 2011

Many of these collectors have focused their attention on modern Chinese artists, and they don't come any bigger than Qi Baishi.

Baishi's sales amassed $70m in 2009 according to Artprice, but that figure has almost been matched in a single sale this year. Baishi's eagle on a pine tree, painted in the 1940s, made $65.5m at China Guardian's May 2011 auction.

Salvador Dali

Dali's 1929 Portrait de Paul Eluard sold for £13m at Sotheby's in February 2011, making it the most expensive work by the artist and the most expensive surrealist painting ever sold at auction.

But that was no anomaly. The same month saw one of Dali's first works, the 1923 Etude pour 'Le miel est plus doux que le sang' achieve £4m at Christie's.

Damien Hirst 

One for the Brits. Sotheby's auction of Hirst's work in September 2008 remains one of the most talked about auctions ever. 218 pieces of Hirst pieces went under the hammer at the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever event, achieving a combined £111m.

Saatchi's £500,000 investment

Hirst is best known for his 1991 shark in formaldehyde, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Commissioned by Charles Saatchi for £500,000, it sold in 2004 for £5m.

Andy Warhol

Warhol died in 1987, causing his works to spike dramatically in price.

Earlier this month Self Portrait (1963-64), his first piece to use himself as the subject, set a new world record for a Warhol self-portrait when it made $38.4m at Christie's New York.

His 1963 Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car) achieved $71.7m at Christie's in 2007 - a record for a Warhol.

Pablo Picasso

In 2009 Picasso dominated the auction sales, amassing $121m according to Artprice, but that was small beer when compared with last year, which included the $106m sale of his 1932 work Nude, Green Leaves and Bust at Christie's, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

$106m: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

The Spaniard's work continues to perform well this year. His La Lecture made $40.7m at Sotheby's in February.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock