The Wall Street Journal has some data from Artnet.com on the top 25 artists of 2010 by auction sales. Kelly Crow offers this interesting comparison from the data which shows the average price of a Warhol at auction increasing from $127,161 in 2009 to $292,197. That’s a rise of 130%. The question is whether Warhol is a good measure of the broader Contemporary art market:
Last year, 1,256 Warhols sold at auction for a combined $367 million, up from 983 of his works for $125 million a year earlier, database Artnet says.
The rest of the data on offer is interesting but the table of the top 25 artists provided with the story is a bit difficult to decipher. First the Average Price column is clearly the auction total for the artist. Further, it is hard to discern how the artists are ranked. Picasso is the top grossing artist at nearly $386 million for 221 works (but he appears at the very bottom of the list.) But Mark Rothko would seem to be the clear winner on Average Price with only 7 paintings sold at auction but a sales total of more than $72 million (yet his stats sit fairly low on the chart.) That works out to an average price over $10 million but one skewed by the small sample.
Further complicating the mystery are some discrepancies. The Journal’s chart lists only 276 Warhols selling for $329 million. With Warhol, it isn’t impossible that another 980 works were sold for a total of $38 million. But there’s no explanation for the difference though a quick look at some of the artists listed would suggest that the Journal’s chart is for paintings and sculptures only, leaving off drawings, etchings, prints and other works by the artists.
Bets in ’11: Pop, Calder, Chinese Coins (Wall Street Journal)