Top 2018

After ten years from the 2008 financial crisis, which had a negative impact on the art market, we are seeing a revival of the art sales. Leonardo da Vinci‘s Salvador Mundi was sold for $450 M (November 2017), showing an increase of 3% for the total art purchase in 2017. The business art deals profit for the first half of 2018 was up 18% compared with previous years, getting to $ 8,45 B. A massive increase of 48% ($3,3 B) for art transactions was registered in the USA, in the top, followed by China ($2 B) and Great Britain ($1,9 B). An art purchasing growth was registered also in European Union’ countries: France +8%, Germany +17%, Italy + 22%. The price index for contemporary art was up 27%. (Cf. doesn’t matter that the modern art sales are the most intense, totalizing 50% from the total fiscal art market value.

In 2018, the leader for modern art sales was USA (with a growth of 10% of awarded lots in contrast to last year), followed by France, China and Great Britain. This is due to the fact that Rockefeller Collection was sold at Christie’s Rockefeller Center HQ in New York during a charity auction on 8th of May, 2018. The 1600 lots were totally sold after six months advertising campaign, 10 days online sales and three days of regular sale. The sum of over $832 M was the highest profit for a private art collection and beat the sale record of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé‘ s collection ($443 M, at Christie’s, in February 2009).

Peggy and David Rockefeller’s Collection

Peggy and David Rockefeller‘s (1915-2017) art pieces were gathered by more than one generation and were reflecting the one family’s passion for Impressionism, American and Asian Art, English Decorative Art, and Japanese, Chinese, Korean and  European porcelain.

David Rockefeller was the last surviving nephew of John D. Rockefeller, the American businessman who had an important role in the oil industry’s development. According to “Top 10: Richest Men of all Time”, he is considered  “the wealthiest American of all time and the richest person in modern history”. ( Today, the Rockefeller family is supporting the whole world research through numerous philanthropic actions. All the income from May 2018 was invested in charity causes initiated by Peggy and David Rockefeller.

Claude Monet, Nymphéas en fleur (1914-1917), oil on canvas, 160 x 180 cm, private collection.

About Rockefeller Collection, Ronald Lauder (co-founder of Neue Galerie, in New York) used to say: “It’s the best of the best. Picasso, Manet, Monet, Derain… whatever I saw in their houses was the finest example of its type – the best work that the artist did”. And he continued: “I have three categories of art: Oh, Oh my, and Oh my God. This is all Oh my God!” The best-sold paintings of the auction were Pablo Picasso‘s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (115 M dollars), Claude Monet‘s Nymphéas en fleur ($84,68 M) and Henri Matisse‘s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias ($80 M).

Henri Matisse, Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923), oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, private collection.

Top 10 Most Expensive Artworks in 2018

Amedeo Modigliani‘s Nu couché was the most expensive artwork sold in 2018,  reaching over $157 M at the Sotheby’s. For Sotheby’s, the artwork has been the most expensive thing ever sold. The painting is considered the largest ever made by Modigliani and was the propriety of the Irish horse breeder John Magnier.

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (1917), oil on canvas, 89,5 x 147 cm, private collection.


Modigliani‘s artwork was followed by Pablo Picasso‘s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie from Rockefeller Collection and by Edward Hopper‘s Chop Suey (1929), sold at the Christie’s for over $91 M. The fourth most expensive artwork sold in 2018 is David Hockney‘s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures, 1972). The painting hammered at $ 90,3 M and with that, Hockney dethroned Jeff Koons.

Kasimir Malevich‘s Suprematist Composition (1916) has been sold to Christie’s in New York with $85,8 M, setting a new record for the Russian artist. The painting measures 88.7 by 71 cm, and worth now $99 per square inch of canvas. It has been purchased by Brett Gorvy, the co-owner of Lévy-Gorvy Gallery, in New York, London and Geneva.

The next best-sold artworks are Claude Monet‘s Nymphéas en fleur and Henri Matisse‘s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias from Rockefeller Collection, followed by Constantin Brâncuși‘s La jeune fille sophistiquée. This portrait of Nancy Cunard became the most expensive sculpture sold at the Christie’s in May 2018. It broke the record for Constantin  Brâncuși, surpassing La muse endormie (bronze, 27 cm, 1913) sold for $57,3 M, in 2017, at the Christie’s.

Constantin Brâncuși, La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard), bronze, 80 cm, 1932.


Christie’s set a new record for Willem de Kooning”, with the Woman as Landscape (ca. 1954-1955) sold for almost $70 M, at the Christie’s. However, de Kooning‘s record was settled in 2016 when Interchange (1955) was sold by David Geffen to hedge fund investor Kenneth Griffin.

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée by Pablo Picasso is the 10th most expensive artwork sold in 2018, with $69,435 M. This portrait of  Marie-Thérèse Walter (1937) was purchased by Harry Smith of the British firm Gurr Johns. He bought 13 Picassos in two days, for $155,2 M.  

Artists who broke Auction Records in 2018

Artists as Joan Mitchell (expressionist-abstract, well known at Art Basel), David Hockney (his works beat twice the record in the same auction at Sotheby’s, establishing a new threshold of $28,5 M) and Diego Riviera were the new winners of the International Art Market. Diego Riviera‘s artwork Los Rivales was commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in 1931 and was one of her earlier gifts to Peggy and David Rockefeller. “I had always found [Rivera] to be a very sympathetic person, and I liked his painting”, declared David Rockefeller. The artwork Los Rivales was sold for $9,76 M, at the Rockefeller Collection auction, becoming the most valuable artwork of a Latin American artist.

In the same year, the artwork Propped (1992) made the British artist Jenny Saville “the best sold female artist alive of all times”. Jenny Saville is well known for the grotesque and brutal way she represents her feminine subjects, trying to send an alarm signal about the masculine domination. Her work Propped got $12,4 M in October at Sotheby‘s.

During the same auction, the painting Bogeyman (2010) by Adrian Ghenie was sold for $6,3 M, the Romanian artist record being established in 2016, at Christie’s ($9 M for the artwork Nickelodeon – 2008).

Kerry James Marshall,  Past Times (1997), acrylic and collage on canvas, 275 x 398,8 cm, private collection.

Kerry James Marshall‘s artwork Past Times has been sold for $21,1 M by Sotheby’s (May 2018). It has been bought by the rapper and impresario P. Diddy and made Marshall the ever best sold African American artist. (Cf.

The Romanian Art Market

In Romania, the leader of the art market is still Artmark, without any noticeable competition. In 2016, the sale’s profit passed the psychological threshold of one million euro (at the Winter Auction on December 20th, 2016 the income from sales was 1.37 M euro, with a buying rate of almost 90%). During the Autumn Auction on October 31st, 2018, the profit was 1,67 M euro (without the house’s commission). The most famous artwork of this auction was a painting of Nicolae Grigorescu (Lot 55. Country girl with white scarf) estimated at 50,000.00-90,000.00 euro. The portrait, part of the magistrate Lazăr Munteanu’s collection, was sold for 340,000.00 euro, becoming the best-sold artwork on the Romanian Art Market. In 2016, another painting oh Grigorescu got a profit of 320,000 euro (Lot 103. Country girls at the fountain,  part of sculptor Constantin Baraschi’s collection). Nicolae Grigorescu is the best-sold artist in Romania, followed by Ștefan Luchian and Theodor Aman.

Author: Silvia Suciu

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