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Art Market: Top Sale Highlights of 2022

· Art Market

If 2021 was already a good year, 2022 brought its share of successes in the art world. Sales are the best way to take the temperature of the market, and this year was especially hot. Wondering what you should remember from the highlights of 2022? From Warhol's Marilyn to Ernie Barnes' stunts and remarkable transactions at fairs, collectors set the tempo this year - and the pace was steady. Here is a look back at a year that was rich in plot twists and broken records.

1. American icons: A record for Andy Warhol

The sale of Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn at Christie's New York, one of the highlights of 2022 auctions © Jeenah Moon, The New York Times

It is impossible not to mention the sale of Shot Sage Blue Marilyn. Presented at Christie's New York in May, it sold for a total of $195 million. Although this was below the estimate set by the auction house ($200 million), the work broke several records in one hit of the gavel. In fact, it all-at-once became the most expensive work created by an American artist and the most expensive 20th century painting ever sold. The image, a visual icon of the 20th century, is one of a series of 4 works dating from 1964. This sale redefined the artist's standing - and the limits of the contemporary market itself - in a matter of moments.

2. The auction highlight of 2022: The Paul G. Allen collection

Georges Seurat's Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite Version), the most valuable lot of the Paul Allen collection sale © Jeenah Moon, The New York Times

The sale of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's private collection set an exceptional record in November 2022. It generated $1.5 billion in 2 days! Artworks exceeding the $100 millions at auction form a rather elitist club. At the Paul Allen sale, no less than 5 paintings became part of it in the span of a few hours. The highlight of the show? Seurat's Les Poseuses, which fetched over $149 million. Not far behind, a Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin... And a forest of birches by Gustav Klimt which sold for $104.5 million, breaking the record for the artist, set at $88 million in 2006.

3. Divorce and heritage: The Harry and Linda Macklowe collection

The historic sale of the Macklowe Collection in the rooms of Sotheby's New York © Sotheby's

A few months before the Paul Allen sale, the Macklowe name dominated the auction podium. The sale, organized by Sotheby's New York, generated $676.1 million. Combined with a first part sold in November 2021, the entire Macklowe collection in 2022 reached a total value of $922 million. Thus, it became the most expensive private collection ever sold at auction… for a few months, before being overtaken by that of Paul Allen!

4. Asian markets: A new record for Zao Wou-Ki

Zao Wou-Ki, 20.09.64, exhibited at Christie's Hong Kong © Christie's

In May, the work June-October 1985 by Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki was acquired for $35.5 million, a new record for an already highly sought-after name. Indeed, it is now the most expensive simple work by the artist (the general record being for his triptych July October 1985, acquired for $65 million in 2018). This sale is especially representative of the dynamic growth of the Asian market, boosted by the alignment of many favorable factors. These include particularly active young collectors and the widespread use of digital sales channels. Not to mention the significant investment by major international players on the continent, such as the first edition of Frieze Seoul and the development of new Sotheby's offices in China, to name but two.

5. The artist highlight of 2022: Ernie Barnes

Ernie Barnes, The Sugar Shack, 1976 © Christie's

Still underpriced and underrepresented in the market, the works of Black artists enjoyed some great highlights in 2022. We could, for example, mention the interest in Kerry James Marshall, whose works sold for $6 million at Frieze London and $2.8 million at Art Basel Miami. But if there is one name to highlight in 2022, it's Ernie Barnes. In May, his work The Sugar Shack sold for over $15 million at auction, over 75 times the estimate! In the fall, Bonham's set an estimate four times higher for Solid Rock Congregation: $500,000 to $700,000. The result? It was also smashed by the final buying price: $1.6 million. These promising results considerably broaden the market's horizons for a generation of Black artists.

6. Art fair millionaires: A new record for Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois' aptly-named Spider standing in Hauser & Wirth's booth at Art Basel, one of the highlights of 2022 art fairs © Courtesy of the artist's estate and Hauser & Wirth / Photo : Jon Etter

In the world of auctions, price tags are much more volatile than in galleries. However, there were also record sales in another sphere that proved particularly dynamic in 2022: art fairs. After a hesitant 2021, the events in 2022 showed collectors' strong willingness to invest. The first edition of Paris+ par Art Basel, for instance, attracted many qualified international buyers. Pace Gallery sold a work by Robert Motherwell for $6.5 million. David Zwirner also sold a Joan Mitchell for $4.5 million. At Art Basel, Hauser & Wirth sold a spider by Louise Bourgeois, in their booth, for $40 million! It was at a fair, therefore, that the artist achieved her highest sale price.

Top highlights of 2022: Insights for the year to come

Overall, 2022 was a year of great enthusiasm for art investment. Despite the complex global economic environment, dedicated buyers did not slow down. On the contrary, high-value collectors were looking to invest heavily. New records for artists such as Andy Warhol, Zao Wou-Ki and Louise Bourgeois show a continuing interest in the best of the best. There were also some good opportunities at art fairs. The first edition of Paris+ is just one example of buyers' readiness to travel to enrich their collections, a sentiment which is expected to persist throughout 2023. Among them, many Americans, who took advantage of the advantageous dollar rate. Finally, there were very good performances for works by Black artists, and in general a strong interest in art related to socio-political issues and identity politics.

At Artsper, we've loved following the many twists and turns and surprising highlights of 2022. We're already looking forward to what the new year has in store for us… And you, what results have impressed you?

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