Here Are the 15 Most Expensive Artworks Sold at Auction Around the World in May 2021

We combed through the results to bring you the top 15 lots of May 2021.

Auctioneer Gemma Sudlow fields bids during Christie's 21st Century evening sale in New York in May 2021. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.
Auctioneer Gemma Sudlow fields bids during Christie's 21st Century evening sale in New York in May 2021. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Auctions may look quite a bit different in 2021 than they did in 2019—think telethon-style phone banks and livestreaming video cameras—but on the spending side, the market has thoroughly bounced back from the pandemic lull. A whopping $2.9 billion worth of fine art sold around the world in May, only 1.8 percent less than the total in May 2019.

Christie’s edged out Sotheby’s to rake in $691.6 million for its sales of 21st- and 20th-century art in New York, about 15 percent more than the latter’s $597 million take. And despite a news cycle dominated by NFTs and young artist records (guilty as charged!), the top lots of the past month prove that the old guard still reigns supreme when it comes to cold, hard cash. Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh all made the list of our 15 top lots at auction in May; another familiar name, Jean-Michel Basquiat, appears on this list three times, more than any other artist, after a slew of his paintings hit the block.

So, without further ado, here are the top lots that sold last month, courtesy of Artnet’s Price Database. Remember that as always, final prices include fees, estimates do not.

 

1. Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932)

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: $103.41 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (in the region of $55 million)

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 13, 2021

 

2. Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case (1983)

Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case (1983) Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, In This Case (1983). Image courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Final Price: $93.1 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (in the range of $50 million)

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 11, 2021

 

3. Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917–19)

Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917-19_. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917–19). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Final Price: $70.35 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (in the region of $40 million)

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

4. Cui Ruzhuo, drizzle, and orchid, don’t be spring, boundless, tower, misty rain, misty autumn, forest, distant mountains, dawn and snow (2020)

Cui Ruzhuo, <i>drizzle, and orchid, don't be spring, boundless, tower, misty rain, misty autumn, forest, distant mountains, dawn and snow</i> (2020). Courtesy of Yongle Auction Ltd.

Cui Ruzhuo, drizzle, and orchid, don’t be spring, boundless, tower, misty rain, misty autumn, forest, distant mountains, dawn and snow (2020). Courtesy of Yongle Auction Co., Ltd.

Final Price: 345,000,000 CNY ($53.6 million)

Estimate: Undisclosed

Where & When: May 20, 2021 at Yongle Auction Co., Ltd. in Beijing

 

5. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Versus Medici (1982)

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Versus Medici (1982). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Versus Medici (1982). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Final Price: $50.82 million

Estimate: $35 million to $50 million

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

6. Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard (1899–1903)

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge effet de brouillard (1899-1903). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge effet de brouillard (1899–1903). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: $48.5 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (above $40 million)

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 13, 2021

 

7. Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome) (1972)

Cy Twombly Rome (1972). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Cy Twombly, Rome (1972). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Final Price: $41.63 million

Estimate: $35 million to $45 million

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

8. Mark Rothko, Untitled (1970)

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1970). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1970). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: $31.15 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (in the region of $40 million)

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 13, 2021

 

9. Vincent van Gogh, Le pont de Trinquetaille (ca. 1888)

Vincent Van Gogh, Le pont de Trinquetaille (ca. 1888). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: $37.4 million

Estimate: $25 million to $35 million

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 13, 2021

 

10. Andy Warhol, Elvis 2 Times (1963)

Andy Warhol, Elvis 2 Tiimes (1963). Image courtesy Sotheby's

Andy Warhol, Elvis 2 Times (1963). Image courtesy Sotheby’s

Final Price: $37 million

Estimate: $20 million to $30 million

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

11. Clyfford Still, PH-125 (1948-No. 1) (1948)

Clyfford Still, PH-125 (1948-No. 1) (1948). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Clyfford Still, PH-125 (1948-No. 1) (1948). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Final Price: $30.7 million

Estimate: $25 million to $35 million

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

12. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) (1982)

Jean-Michel Basquiat, <i>Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face)</i> (1982). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) (1982). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: HKD234.29 million ($30.2 million)

Estimate: HKD140 million to HKD170 million ($18 million to $22 million)

Where & When: Christie’s Hong Kong, May 24, 2021

 

13. Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #40 (1971)

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park No. 40, (1971). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park No. 40, (1971). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Final Price: $27.27 million

Estimate: $20 million to $30 million

Where & When: Sotheby’s New York, May 12, 2021

 

14. Zhang Daqian, Temple at the Mountain Peak (1967)

Zhang Daqian, <i>Temple at the Mountain Peak</i> (1967). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Zhang Daqian, Temple at the Mountain Peak (1967). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: HKD209.1 million ($26.93 million)

Estimate: Undisclosed

Where & When: Christie’s Hong Kong, May 24, 2021

 

15. Piet Mondrian, Composition: No. II, With Yellow, Red and Blue (1927)

Piet Mondrian, Composition: No. II, With Yellow, Red and Blue (1927). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Piet Mondrian, Composition: No. II, With Yellow, Red and Blue (1927). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Final Price: $26.12 million

Estimate: Undisclosed (in the region of $25 million)

Where & When: Christie’s New York, May 13, 2021


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