The Top 10 Most Expensive Living American Artists of 2016

Here's what it takes to rise to the top.

A member of the public walks past the painting "Jacques le Fataliste" by Frank Stella. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Presented by CartierEach year, artnet News rounds up the art world’s top-performing artists at auction, across categories. But as the 2016 results come in from the first half of auction season, not much has changed since we last mined the artnet Price Database to identify the most expensive living American artists of 2015—which isn’t a good thing.

Similar to artnet News’s last list featuring the top 10 most expensive living British artists, the lack of diversity is evident, and the problem is no different on this side of the Atlantic. David Hammons is the only person of color on the list, and Cindy Sherman has been knocked off, leaving Cady Noland as the lone female artist in this pricey deck of cards. There are also some surprises, though, as Ed Ruscha’s 1963 painting, Smash, is only a few million behind Jasper Johns’s iconic Flag (1983) artwork. Nevertheless, we’re waiting for some new voices to rise to the top in 2017.

Related: Who Are the Most Expensive British Artists at Auction?

See the complete list of the most expensive American artists at auction below.


Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, sold at Christie’s New York

1. Jeff Koons
Balloon dog (Orange), (1994–2000) sold on November 12, 2013 at Christie’s New York for $58.4 million.

Jasper Johns, Flag (1954-55). Courtesy of YouTube.

Jasper Johns, Flag (1954-55). Courtesy of YouTube.

2. Jasper Johns
Flag (1983) sold on November 11, 2014 at Sotheby’s New York for $36 million.

Ed Ruscha, Smash (1963). Photo courtesy of Christie's.

Ed Ruscha, Smash (1963). Courtesy of Christie’s.

3. Ed Ruscha
Smash (1963) sold on November 12, 2014 at Christie’s New York for $30.4 million.

Christopher Wool, <em>Untitled (Riot)</em> (1990). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Christopher Wool, Untitled (Riot) (1990). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

4. Christopher Wool
Untitled (Riot) (1990) sold on May 12, 2015 at Sotheby’s New York for $29.9 million.

Robert Ryman, <em>Bridge</em> (1980). Courtesy of Widewalls.

Robert Ryman, Bridge (1980). Courtesy of Widewalls.

5. Robert Ryman
Bridge (1980) sold on May 13, 2015 at Christie’s New York for $20.6 million.

Delaware Crossing

6. Frank Stella
Delaware Crossing (1961) sold on November 4, 2015 at Sotheby’s New York for $13.7 million.

Brice Marden, Blue Horizontal (1986-87). Photo courtesy of Christie's/ © 2015 Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Brice Marden, Blue Horizontal (1986-87). Photo courtesy of Christie’s/
© 2015 Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

7. Brice Marden
The Attended (1996–1999) sold on November 13, 2013 at Sotheby’s New York for $10.9 million.

Cady Noland, Bluewald (1989).Photo: Courtesy of the Southbank Centre.

Cady Noland, Bluewald (1989). Courtesy of the Southbank Centre.

8. Cady Noland
Bluewald (1989) sold on May 11, 2015 at Christie’s New York for $9.8 million.

Richard Prince, Runaway Prince (2005-6). Image: Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Richard Prince, Runaway Prince (2005-6). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

9. Richard Prince
Runaway Nurse (2005–2006) sold on May 10, 2016 at Christie’s New York for $9.7 million.

David Hammons, Untitled (2000)

10. David Hammons
Untitled (2000) sold on November 11, 2013 at Phillips New York for $8 million.

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