5 Takeaways From the December Auctions

Picasso was the most popular artist at auction in December.

Pablo Picasso, Woman under the Light (Jacqueline). RMB 58,650,000 ($8.47 million). Courtesy Poly Huayi.

Each month, 1,700 auction houses from New York to Lagos hold auctions. Data culled from these sales often tell an interesting tale, whether about a person who found an artwork that sold for well below its market value, or an artist whose work came to the secondary market for the first time.

The blockbuster sales in May and November often grab the headlines. But how is the auction market performing throughout the rest of the year? In this monthly series, with the help of the artnet Price Database, we aim to find out.


1. In December, auctions took place in 72 cities around the world, but most lots were sold at auctions in Beijing. There were 7,338 lots sold for a total of $884,952,651.90.

Ren Renfa, <i>Five Drunken Kings Returning Home</i> Courtesy Poly International Auction Co., Ltd

Ren Renfa, Five Drunken Kings Returning Home. Courtesy of Poly International Auction Co., Ltd

2. Poly International Auction Co., Ltd. had the highest selling lot. A hand scroll by Ren Renfa fetched $44,117,648 during the Ancient Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Evening Sale on December 4, 2016. The sale marked a new record for work by this artist at auction.

Pablo Picasso, Face no. 0 (1963). Courtesy Leslie Hindman.

Pablo Picasso, Face no. 0 (1963). Courtesy of Leslie Hindman

3. There were more lots by Pablo Picasso offered and sold this past month than there were by any other artist at auction. Out of 317 lots that were offered, 211 were successfully sold.According to artnet price database information, there were a total of 117,025 lots offered at global auctions in December, and 73,757 were sold.


Metello Motelli, Iris (1873). Courtesy Sotheby's

Metello Motelli, Iris (1873). Courtesy of Sotheby’s

4. 283 new artists were added to the artnet artist index from auctions that took place in December. One new artist added was Metello Motelli, whose marble sculpture, Iris, was sold by Sotheby’s London for $428,750 during the 19th and 20th Century Sculpture sale on December 14, 2016.


Francois-Xavier Lalanne, <i>Rhinoceros bleu</i> (1981). Courtesy Artcurial

Francois-Xavier Lalanne, Rhinoceros bleu (1981). Courtesy of Artcurial


5. France had 425 auction catalogs added to the artnet Price Database in 2016, closely followed by the US and China, which published 342 and 239 sales catalogs, respectively.

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