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What is a Contemporary Art Auction?
The world of modern art is changing. Just visit a contemporary art auction to get a clue. Unknown artists see the value of their works quadruple in a few years. Chinese and Indian artists are finding wider audiences, and wealthy patrons of the arts aren’t just paying thousands – they’re paying millions.
Traditionally, an artist’s older works have been subject to higher bids and more frantic demands. However, painters like Brice Marden are changing the status quo with a whole collection of recent and sought-after works.
The top 10 contemporary artists, whose works have sold for over $5 million at auction, are: Lucian Freud, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Frank Stella and Cy Twombly. Other artists (between $1 and $4 million) to watch include: Chuck Close, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Ryman and Wayne Thiebaud.
Jasper Johns, one of the highest paid modern artists, can’t seem to keep up with the demand. He paints two projects each month (which will sell for no less than a million dollars), but the waiting list is still long. Entertainment giant David Geffen paid $40 million for “Gray Numbers” a few years ago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reportedly paid over $20 million for “White Flag.”
John’s colorful paintings tackle American themes – with many flags, maps and targets – with subtle messages that affect each viewer differently. If a collector is lucky enough to find a Jasper Johns at an art auction house, there is no telling how much it will sell for.
One cannot help but wonder what explains the notable trend towards modern art? Most buyers (42%) at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction are still European, with the US at 19% and Asia/Middle East sales at 12%.
It appears the high price of the pound is hurting many Americans more than the credit crunch, but the weekend auction in London saw plenty of advances from interested Indian and Chinese buyers looking for an item of cultural heritage. For example, two bidders fought over Yue Minjun’s “Execution” for six minutes, which ultimately sold for a record $2.93 million. Similarly, one of Putu Sutawijaya’s paintings (“Silent Road”) sold for $350,000 (11 times its estimated price) at the Borobudur auction!
The art world is moving from the traditional chic event, with fine wine, cheese and fashionable clothes, to sitting behind the computer screen, credit card in hand. hand. While this may seem impersonal to some, it’s beneficial to others, who have the ability to hop between sites, checking fair prices for the particular job they have their eye on. After perusing online catalogs, art lovers can get a good idea of what’s available in the up-to-date market and then make the best buy later at a contemporary art auction.
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