Market Snapshot: Cy Twombly

Twombly's market has shown a steep breakaway trend from other blue-chip artists.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (1952)
Cy Twombly, Untitled (1952).
Photo: artnet Price Database.

Cy Twombly
American, 1928–2011

The erudite abstractions of Cy Twombly draw on his contact with literary inspiration throughout Europe, experience as a cryptologist in the US Army in the 1950s, and work with significant postwar heavyweights, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. His post-Abstract Expressionist compositions, particularly of the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s—a junction between gestural brushstrokes and drawn, sometimes enigmatic, symbolism drawing from classical and Renaissance source material—are a strong member of the coterie of blue-chip artists bolstering rising success at auction in recent years.

artnet’s Lindsey Lovern reported that Sotheby’s November 2013 Contemporary Art Evening Auction (see November Auctions Break All Records), in particular, was one of Sotheby’s “most lucrative,” with a total of “over $290 million, and a sell-through rate of 81%.” Although many post-auction reports of recent seasons’ evening sales have focused on the successes of other prominent modernists and postwar artists, Twombly’s works certainly contributed to the overall impressive auction success last fall. Twombly’s top auction record is the sale of his mixed-media piece Poems To The Sea (in 24 parts) (1959) at Sotheby’s November 2013 Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which sold for $21,669,000, nearly triple its high estimate of $8,000,000.

Twombly’s 12th top auction record, the sale of Untitled (1952), a canvas inscribed with layers of warm-hued oil, wax, and crayon for $7.45 million (nearly $500,000 more than its high estimate), was a part of Christie’s third-largest single auction total ever, totaling $745 million (see “10 Game-Changing Auctions“).

artnet Analytics shows that Twombly’s abstractions are a valuable investment for collectors looking to spend big and earn even more in years to come. Twombly’s highest-selling works at auction have all sold in the past three years, part of an overall rise in the market appreciation for his work. artnet Analytics data shows that there has been a 265 percent increase in index value of Twombly’s work over the past decade. In the last three years, in particular, Twombly’s index value has broken away from the general trends of artnet’s top 50 contemporary artists (C50™), rising 193 points in comparison to a more sluggish rise, then fall, resulting in a net increase of 38 points for artnet’s C50™.

For more art market analysis, please visit artnet Analytics.

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