JANUS ARTS’ GUIDE TO RECORD-BREAKING ART SALES OF 2022
MARILYN TO MICROSOFT: THE RECORD-BREAKING ART SALES OF 2022
From an iconic Andy Warhol to Paul G. Allen’s $1.6bn collection, discover the headline-grabbing blockbuster auctions of 2022 that made art world history.
A year of record-breaking art sales, if 2022 had a message for the art cognoscenti, it was that you can’t keep keen collectors and investors locked down for long. Never mind the global economic and ecological uncertainty gripping the planet. Come spring, the high-end secondary art market returned in a feeding frenzy.
The big numbers kicked off in May with the sale of Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn at Christie’s New York. One of the defining images of contemporary art history, the winning combination of the founding father of American Pop Art and America’s all-time favourite muse didn’t disappoint. The final price of $195 million (hammer price plus buyer’s premium) saw the work become not just the year’s most expensive artwork sold at auction but also the most expensive 20th-century artwork sold at auction EVER.
THE MACKLOWE COLLECTION AT SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK
Further proof that when the going gets tough, the tough go art investment shopping came with Sotheby’s New York’s ‘second-half’ sale of The Macklowe Collection. A compendium of contemporary masterpieces collated over half a century by Harry and Linda Macklowe; the Manhattan duo’s acrimonious divorce had forced the treasure trove’s sale. Very much a two-part drama, an initial tranche of 35 pieces auctioned in November 2021 had raised an eye-watering $676.1m. Although not quite as star-studded, highlights from the May 2022 sequel saw an untitled Rothko and Warhol self-portrait sell respectively for $48m and $18.7m. Meanwhile, Gerhard Richter’s divine Seestück (Seascape) realised just under $30.2m. Combined, the two auctions saw sales of $922m: an astonishing total that saw the Macklowe Collection confirmed as the most valuable private collection ever sold at auction…albeit briefly.
THE ANN AND GORDON GETTY COLLECTION
The fall auction season belonged to Christie’s New York. In October, the auction house began its record-breaking art sales with a series of fine and decorative arts auctions from Ann and Gordon Getty’s private collection. From works by Matisse, Monet, Degas, Sisley, Gaugin and even Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (yes, he painted, too!) to a pair of enormous Chinese cloisonné and champlevé enamel censers shaped like crane birds, the Getty’s collection was an eclectic delight from start to finish. Spread across two weeks, the ten separate auctions saw more than 1,500 superlative items—including Japanese and Chinese arts and textiles, Cartier and Tiffany jewellery, Hermès Birkin handbags and European antique furniture—go under the hammer. Quite something to think that such a vast collection was once housed in the couple’s San Francisco home! Realising more than $150m, the sales’ combined proceeds will benefit the visual arts via The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts.
MAGGI HAMBLING (B. 1945)
HIGH SEA, AUGUST
SIGNED AND DATED ‘HAMBLING/06-07’
OIL ON CANVAS
EX MARLBOROUGH FINE ART
THE PAUL G. ALLEN COLLECTION: THE MOST VALUABLE ART AUCTION EVER
Go big or go home…the sale of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s art collection in November 2022 was always destined to be special. Revered as a prolific and versatile collector, the late Allen’s diverse compendium stretched from Renaissance and Impressionist masterpieces to avant-garde sculpture and contemporary photography. But even the auction houses’ experts were stunned by the final results, which knocked The Macklowe Collection for six and confirmed Allen’s collection as the most valuable private collection ever…by a long stretch.
Held over two evenings at Christie’s New York, ‘Visionary: The Paul. G Allen Collection’ proved a record-breaking art sale unlike any other. The roll call of artists was extraordinary, with works by Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte, Georgia O’Keeffe, David Hockney and many more. Incredibly, of the ten most expensive artworks sold in 2022, six were from Allen’s collection. Star of the show was Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version, 1888). Blowing Seurat’s previous record of $34m out of the water, the pointillist work sold for a record-breaking $149.2m—the highest price ever achieved for an Impressionist or Post-Impressionist work.
24 ARTIST’S RECORD PRICES SMASHED IN ONE AUCTION
But it wasn’t just Seurat commanding mega bucks. In total, 24 works—by artists as varied as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gaugin, Barbara Hepworth, Jasper Johns, Gustav Klimt, and Jan Brueghel the Younger—achieved artist record prices. (Janus Arts is currently overseeing the conservation of a Jan Brueghel the Younger painting, in readiness for its return to the open market for the first time in 150 years. A companion work to a series held in Madrid’s Museo del Prado’s permanent collection—to express your interest in this ‘unseen in our lifetime’ piece, get in touch.)
“Never before have more than two paintings exceeded $100 million in a single sale, but tonight we saw five,” commented Max Carter, Christie’s Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art. “Four were masterpieces from the fathers of modernism — Cezanne, Seurat, Van Gogh and Gauguin.”
Not a single work of Allen’s went unsold. By the time the hammer fell on the second night’s last lot, sale proceeds totalled $1,622,249,500. As per Allen’s wishes, the extraordinary sum will be dedicated to philanthropic projects.
PIET MONDRIAN AT SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK
Works from the estate of a former Whitney Museum president—the late New York attorney David Solinger (1906-1996)—proved another single-owner white glove sell-out. Highlights of the Sotheby’s New York November sale included Willem de Kooning’s Collage (1950), which sold for $29m ($33,645,500 IBP)—a new record for a De Kooning work on paper—and the hand-painted Giacometti sculpture Trois hommes qui marchent (grand plateau). Commissioned by Solinger and cast in 1952, the painted bronze outstripped its estimate of $15m, with the hammer falling at $25m ($30,198,500 IBP).
Sotheby’s New York’s Modern evening auction, held later that same night, saw several works change hands for below their low estimates. Stand out lots that did impress included Picasso’s Guitare sur une table (1919), from the collection of the late Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) president, William S. Paley. A bidding war saw the still life surpass its $25m on-request estimate and sell for $32m. But it was Dutch Modernist Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. 11 (1930) that proved to be the night’s big hitter. Last seen at auction at Christie’s London in 1983—when it sold for $2.2m—the classic abstract went to an Asian collector for $51m, setting a new auction record for the artist.
LONDON CALLING—TRACEY EMIN AND DAVID HOCKNEY
The only non-New York auction sale to make 2022’s top ten occurred in March when Rene Magritte’s L’empire des lumières (1961) hammered for £51.5m ($68.9m) at Sotheby’s London. On sale for the first time, the work smashed the Belgian surrealist’s previous record of £20.1m.
International blockbuster records aside, 2022 saw strong sales for UK-based artists. Notably, Tracey Emin’s Like a Cloud of Blood (2022) sold at Christie’s 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale in October for £2.32m—just short of the artist’s record. (Find out more about Emin and her works that we represent here). But the auction highlight was David Hockney’s Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime (1968-69), which went for just shy of £21m. Janus Arts is proud to be handling the sale of a unique work of significant importance by David Hockney that has never been sold on the open market. To express interest in this private sale, please get in contact without delay.
Big auction results make big headlines. But some of the year’s best results came from private sales that went under the radar. Our exemplary connections provide exclusive access to an international network of private collectors. For guidance on buying and selling privately, feel free to contact us in confidence at any time. Whether you want to discuss the sale or purchase of a specific artwork or simply need basic gratis advice, we’re here to help.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium (IBP) unless stated otherwise.