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Artprice has published its Contemporary art market report—formerly timed to coincide with Frieze’s later dates—which draws from an idiosyncratic definition of Contemporary art. For Artprice, only artists born after 1945 are eligible to be considered Contemporary. That causes some interesting disjunctures from the rest of the Contemporary art market.
Gone from their lists are market driving names like Warhol, Richter, Calder, Stella, Johns and Twombly.
Luckily for us, one of those names, Jean-Michel Basquiat, happens to be providing market leadership today. Above is a slightly redacted list drawn from Artprice’s top twenty contemporary artists by gross auction sales. Further down, we give you the top twenty artists by lot volume, which is a very different list, and then the top twenty by average lot value. That final chart is drawn from Artprice’s data but not something they calculate.
The gross auction revenue list breaks into fairly distinct bands. Basquiat is in a world by himself. Doig, Wool and Stingel have roughly the same order of magnitude in sales. Then there is a band in the $28m to $39m gross auction revenue range that includes Mark Grotjahn, Richard Prince, Yoshitomo Nara, Keith Haring, Zeng Fanzhi, Adrian Ghenie, and, of course, Damien Hirst.
Looking at the list based solely on the volume of auction lots, we see a very different set of names dominated by street artists like Keith Haring, Banksy and Kaws.
Crossing the two lists to generate an average price for each artists’ work may be the most valid way to look at these markets. In that register, we see Mark Grotjahn, John Currin, Mark Bradford, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Cecily Brown and Thomas Schutte rise in the rankings.
Average prices are affected by outliers like the $110m Basquiat. Without that single work, Grotjahn would sit atop the average price list above Basquiat. You can also see the effect of that outlier on the rankings by auction house. Without the outlier Basquiat, Sotheby’s average price per lot for a Contemporary artist falls to $218,000, still out-distancing rival Christie’s buy by a much closer margin.