Who Were the Most Expensive European Artists at Auction in 2015?

What does the record-shattering year mean for 2016?

Pablo Picasso Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955). Courtesy of Christie's New York.
Pablo Picasso Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) , 1955. Courtesy of Christie's New York.
European artists enjoyed a record-breaking year at auction in 2015. Photo: Yahoo News

European artists enjoyed a record-breaking year at auction in 2015.
Photo: Yahoo News

The global art market remained strong and buoyant in 2015. Boosted by record-shattering auction sales and new buyers from emerging markets, it has been an exciting year for auction houses, dealers, and collectors.

According to data from artnet’s Price Database, European artists have had an especially big year at auction.

And despite the sustained hype surrounding contemporary art, it was modern art sales that drove the upper segment of the art market in 2015, with Gerhard Richter the only living, contemporary European artist among the top 10 of the year’s most expensive European artists at auction.

Sales in 2015 were led by Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955) which became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it changed hands for $179 million at Christie’s New York in May.

The world record was followed closely by the sale of Amadeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (1917-1918) which was hammered down at $170 million at Christie’s New York in November, becoming the second-most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

Vincent van Gogh’s L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888) came in third, selling for $66.3 million at Sotheby’s New York in spring.

Next came Lucian Freud whose Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994) sold for $56.1 million, setting a new auction record for the artist. He is followed by Claude Monet‘s Nymphéas (1905) and Piet Mondrian‘s Composition No. III, with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929) which doubled its high estimate and set a new auction record for the artist when it was hammered down at $50.5 million at Christie’s.

Meanwhile, auction darling Francis Bacon came in seventh with the sale of Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963) for $47.7 million.

The only living artist on the list, Gerhard Richter, came in eighth, followed by auction stalwart Gustav Klimt.

Benefitting from the market’s rediscovery of Italian post-war art and Arte Povera, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziali, La Fine di Dio (1964) made it to tenth on the list when it was sold for $29.1 million at Christie’s New York in November.

Even though the artists are European, New York once again proved its credentials as the epicenter of the art trade with eight of ten of the top sales taking place there.

According to the 2015 TEFAF Art Market Report, the total value of the art market surged past $51 billion in 2014, and with several records falling in 2015 the market is showing no signs of slowing down in 2016.

Here are the most expensive artworks by European artists sold at auction in 2015:

Pablo Picasso Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955) Photo: Christie's

Pablo Picasso Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955)
Photo: Christie’s

1. Pablo Picasso
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955) sold at Christie’s New York on May 11, 2015, for $179,365,000.

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917–18. Courtesy Christie's New York.

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917–18.
Courtesy Christie’s New York.

2. Amadeo Modigliani
Nu Couché (1917-1918) sold at Christie’s New York on November 9, 2015, for $170,405,000.

Vincent van Gogh L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888) Photo: Sotheby's

Vincent van Gogh L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888)
Photo: Sotheby’s

3. Vincent van Gogh
L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888) sold at Sotheby’s New York on May 5, 2015 for $66,330,000.

Lucien Freud Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994) Photo: Christie's

Lucien Freud Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994)
Photo: Christie’s

4. Lucian Freud
Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994) sold at Christie’s New York on May 13, 2015 for $56,165,000.

Claude Monet Nymphéas (1905) Photo: Sotheby's

Claude Monet Nymphéas (1905)
Photo: Sotheby’s

5. Claude Monet
Nymphéas (1905) sold at Sotheby’s New York on May 5, 2015 for $54,010,000.

Piet Mondrian Composition No. III, with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929) Photo: Christie's

Piet Mondrian Composition No. III, with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929)
Photo: Christie’s

6. Piet Mondrian
Composition No. III, with Red, Blue, Yellow, and Black (1929) sold on May 14, 2015 at Christie’s New York for $50,565,000.

Francis Bacon Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963) Photo: Christie's

Francis Bacon Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963)
Photo: Christie’s

7. Francis Bacon
Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963) sold on May 13, 2015 at Christie’s New York for $47,765,000.

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild (1986) Photo: Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild (1986)
Photo: Sotheby’s

8. Gerhard Richter
Abstraktes Bild (1986) sold on February 10, 2015 at Sotheby’s London for $46,352,959.

Gustav Klimt Portrait of Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsöványi) (1902) Photo: Sotheby's

Gustav Klimt Portrait of Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsöványi) (1902)
Photo: Sotheby’s

9. Gustav Klimt
Portrait of Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsöványi) (1902) sold on June 24, 2015 at Sotheby’s London for $38,872,510.

Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio (1964)

Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio (1964)

10. Lucio Fontana
Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio (1964) sold on November 10, 2015 at Christie’s New York for $29,173,000.


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