The Art Market in 2012

artnet Analytics takes a look at the state of the art market in 2012.

The year 2012 saw continued recovery from the contraction of the market in 2009. Using data from the artnet Price Database, artnet Analytics has generated the information below reflecting the state of the art market in 2012.

Top 5 Cities
The Top 5 Cities chart examines them by value sold in 2012. New York and London claimed first and second place, respectively, boosted by top auction houses: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips. Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong round out the Top 5 list, illustrating the growing strength of the Chinese market.

Top 10 Lots
In 2012, the top end of the market was bolstered by blockbuster May and November sales and aggressive bidding. Edvard Munch’s chart-topper, The Scream, sold at Sotheby’s for US$119.9 million, setting a new record for an artwork sold at auction, while Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow set a new record for the sale of postwar art. Raphaël’s Head of a Young Apostle also became the highest selling work on paper, fetching over US$47.8 million. Overall, the Top 10 Lots brought in an impressive US$594.6 million.

Top 5 Artists
The Top 5 Artists selling at auction in 2012 are highlighted here. Gerhard Richter, at number three, was the only living artist to claim a Top 5 spot, with three of his Top 5 prices ever achieved at auction occurring in 2012. Andy Warhol finished the year as the top artist sold, after an impressive November sale season, beginning with the success of The Andy Warhol Foundation’s inaugural sale of the artist’s work at Christie’s. Qi Biashi and Zhang Daqian filled the final spots with strong sales in the Chinese market.

Overall Market Performance
The performance graph compares the financial performance of the artnet Contemporary 50 index (C50™ index), the Impressionist 25, and the Modern 25 indices. Performance is tracked annually from 2009, when the market crashed. The artnet C50™ index tracks the aggregate returns of the 50 leading Contemporary artists who best represent the Contemporary Art auction market. Similarly, the Imp 25 and Mod 25 Indices capture the performance of leading artists in the Impressionist and Modern collecting categories, respectively.

Since 2009, the performance of the Modern, Impressionist, and Contemporary indices suggests signs of recovery, with the Contemporary market showing the most significant and swift gains. The Contemporary market has shown the strongest and most consistent performances in the past year, with overall returns reaching almost 200% since 2009.

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  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.