Who Were the Best-Selling Artists at Auction in 2022? See the Top 20 Names and Find Out What They Reveal About the Market

The three highest-ranking artists each brought in over $500 million in sales last year.

© Christie’s Images Limited 2022.

After a year that saw several blockbuster collections come up for auction, including that of the late billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ($1.5 billion was made in a single-evening sale), along with the Ann and Gordon Getty collection, and those assembled by philanthropist Anne Bass and Swiss dealers Thomas and Doris Amman, it’s hard to believe that the Artnet Price Database recorded a dip in fine art auction volume in 2022, to $15.8 billion from a revised final of $16.8 billion for 2021.

Then again, the 2021 auction calendar also had its fair share of unprecedented collections go up for sale. These include the one formed by the divorcing couple Harry and Linda Macklowe, which added $676 million to Sotheby’s bottom line that year, as well as the $332 million achieved at Christie’s for works amassed by late oil magnate Edwin Cox.

© 2023 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2023 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

Amid a reshuffling of some of the names at the top, the auction totals for individual artists show some of the most intense concentrations yet. Consider that the top three names on the current bestseller list—Warhol, Monet, and Picasso—all notched well over $500 million each. But in between the third and fourth rankings, the volume dropped precipitously—by roughly half—to $255 million. The drop was more graded in 2021’s results, moving from over $600 million for the top-ranking artist to over $400 million for the name in the second spot, then to the $300-million range for the artists in the third and fourth positions, before scaling down to over $200 million.

Some names that dominated the 2021 list experienced noticeable drops on last year’s chart. This perhaps reflects less a sense of shifting tastes than an issue of supply. These included Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose ranking went to seventh in 2022 from second the year before, and whose related volume dropped to $220.9 million from $376 million. Those deeply involved in the Basquiat market insist that the decline is a matter of supply, not demand.

“The market for Basquiat is very solid,” collector Alberto Mugrabi told Artnet News’s Katya Kazakina. His family collects and trades works by the artist. “Everyone thinks they have a $200 million painting. People don’t want to sell,” he added.

Van Gogh also dropped considerably, from fifth in 2021 ($235 million) to tenth place last year ($192 million). Then again, the most recent sum was for 10 works, all of which found buyers, making for an average price of $19.2 million per work.

Japanese star Yayoi Kusama was the only female artist to crack the top ten in 2021, landing in the tenth slot in the best-seller rankings with a total of $146.4 million in auction sales. Last year, however, despite even higher cumulative auction sales of $189 million, Kusama slipped down two notches to the 12th-highest slot.

Artist Auction   
Total
Number of Works Sold       Number of Works Offered
Andy Warhol $585.9M

1372

1624

Claude Monet $539M

31

38

Pablo Picasso $512.7M

2548

2924

Francis Bacon $255.2M

117

144

René Magritte $255.4M

102

131

Gerhard Richter $255M

297

337

Jean-Michel Basquiat $220.9M

53

62

Mark Rothko $198.2M

8

8

Willem de Kooning $195M

89

117

Paul Cézanne $193.4M

33

47

Vincent van Gogh $192.9M

10

10

Yayoi Kusama $189.3M

802

886

Alberto Giacometti $185.9M

180

221

Zhang Daqian $177M

417

522

David Hockney $173M

608

689

Cy Twombly $166M

88

98

Georges Seurat $157.8M

9

10

Francois-Xavier Lalanne  $145M

277

302

Paul Gauguin $132M

66

111

Marc Chagall

$122M

1014

1267

Source: Artnet Price Database; Artnet News

Taking a closer look at some of the top performers, it’s clear to what extent supply issues are impacting auction totals at the top end of the market.

Andy Warhol

Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Sure it helps that two paintings alone in 2022 pulled in a whopping $280 million, or just under half of the Pop artist’s $585.9 million total. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964), sold for $195 million at Christie’s in May, while White Disaster [White Car Crash 19 Times] (1963) brought $85.35 million at Sotheby’s in November. But even aside from that, the volume was considerable: the auction total was fuelled by the sale of 1,372 individual Warhol works. Last year Warhol leaped to the top of the bestseller list from third place in 2021, when his auction total was roughly $342 million.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet, Le Parlement, soleil couchant (1900-1903). Image courtesy Christie's.

Claude Monet, Le Parlement, soleil couchant (1900–03). Image courtesy Christie’s.

The $75.96 million price achieved for Le Parlement, soleil couchant (1900–03), which sold at Christie’s in May as part of the sale of the Anne Bass collection, is only the fifth most expensive work by Monet ever sold at auction. The record of $110.7 million for a Monet Haystack (1891) was achieved in 2019. Nevertheless, with just a relatively slim group of works sold at auction, 31 in total, Monet was the second-highest seller, achieving a total auction take of $536 million in 2022.

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964). Courtesy of Sotheby's

Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Bacon, whose famously torqued and tormented portraits are sought after by trophy hunters around the world, burst onto the list at number four. He landed in the slot immediately after Pablo Picasso at third, albeit with a huge volume gap at a total of $255 million compared with Picasso’s $512 million take. Then again, just 117 Bacon works were sold at auction in 2022  compared with 2,548 pieces by Picasso. The highest price achieved for a Bacon painting last year was $52.6 million (£43.3 million) for Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964), which sold at Sotheby’s London in June.

Rene Magritte

Rene Magritte, L’empire des lumières (1961) . Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Rene Magritte, L’empire des lumières (1961) . Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

It may come as a surprise that Magritte landed in fifth place on the 2022 list, with an auction total of $225.4 million, after failing to crack the top 20 the year before. A huge chunk of that sum is owed to the sale of L’empire des lumières (1961), which went for the now-record price of $79.4 million at Sotheby’s London in March. “I can’t ever recall a Magritte being the most expensive painting of the season in the Impressionist and modern category, but his work, in particular, and Surrealism, in general, have been in terrific demand,” said auction veteran-turned-private dealer David Norman.  “Exhibitions on Surrealism have proliferated and many younger artists today often say they take inspiration from the Surrealist artist. Magritte’s prices have been climbing so, for an archetypal image, there was support for a price over $50 million.”

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning, Untitled (c. 1979). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Dutch AbEx master Willem de Kooning also climbed higher on the bestselling artist list, landing in the ninth slot compared with his 18th-place ranking in 2021. His total sale volume rose to $195 million, from $104 million, with a total of 89 lots sold. An untitled circa 1979 painting, with varying swaths of deep blue paint, achieved $34.8 million—the third highest-ever auction result for De Kooning—when it was offered at a Sotheby’s auction in November.


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