Overall $1m+ Art Market

Overall $1m+ Art Market

T his section provides an overview of art sold for $1m or more in the fine art auction market from 2018 to 2022, and unsold work with a low estimate of $1m or more. We have divided the market into four major categories: Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters, and Chinese Traditional Paintings and Works of Art. Our results come from sales at the three major international auction houses: Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s.

Change in sales by value of $1m+ works 2018–2022

Art in the $1m+ range represents a small fraction of the works sold at auction, yet this lucrative high-end sector is growing both in value and importance. In 2022 just 4.3% of auctioned works – 1,352 of the 31,094 lots sold – were $1m+, yet they made up 77.8% of the $10.48bn overall auction market covered in this report. Record-breaking sales, such as Andy Warhol’s $195m Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964, and Georges Seurat’s $149.2m Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), 1888, helped bring $1m+ sales in 2022 to a five-year-high of $8.15bn.

Although $1m+ sales dipped during the pandemic, the impact was largely confined to 2020, when many auctions were suspended due to lockdowns and total sales dropped to $3.52bn. Even with these challenges, particularly in the pandemic’s early days, significant $1m+ sales were still made. The top sales were Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, 1981, which sold for $84.6m in a live-streamed auction followed by Roy Lichtenstein’s $46.2m Nude with Joyous Painting, 1994, both in purely livestreamed auctions.

Overall sales by value 2018–2022

The market rebounded in 2021, growing to $6.75bn, despite repeated lockdowns in China into this year. The $1m+ market grew by 9.5% over a five-year period, from $7.44bn in 2018 to $8.15bn in 2022. The first half of 2022 was stronger, with $4.33bn in sales for 713 works, including a rediscovered Old Master sketch of a nude man by Michelangelo, which set a new auction record for a drawing by the artist when it sold for $24.3m. The second half of 2022 saw $3.81bn in sales.

Between 2018 and 2022 the average price for a work of art in the $1m+ price bracket was $5.2m. In 2018 it was $5.3m, dipping over the next two years before climbing in 2022 to a five-year high of $6m.

Approximately $31.35bn of the $42.13bn spent on art at auction between 2018–2022 was for $1m+ works

Art in the $1m+ range accounted for nearly three-quarters of all art sales by value between 2018 and 2022. Works under $1m represented just 25.6% of overall sales, but made up the majority of lots – 141,367 compared to just 6,021 – over the five-year period.

Approximately $31.35bn of the $42.13bn spent on art at auction during this period was for $1m+ works. Among them was a painting by Amedeo Modigliani – Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917 – which sold for $157.2m. It was the top lot of 2018 and the second-highest lot of the whole period 2018–2022.

Sales of $1m+ art reached a five-year high in 2022, totalling $8.15bn compared with $2.33bn for art under $1m. These high-end sales represented 77.8% of the overall market by value, a 22% increase on 2021, when they totalled $6.68bn, and a 9.5% increase on 2018’s $7.44bn total.

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917, was the top lot of 2018
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917, was the top lot of 2018

Strong sales in 2022 were aided by 291 works sold at auction from collections formed by noted art patrons. These include the $363.1m Anne Bass sale, where all 12 works sold for over $1m, including $76m for Monet’s Le Parlement, soleil couchant, 1900–03, and the sale of former Whitney Museum president David Solinger’s collection, where 17 $1m+ works in the 23-lot sale accounted for around $135m of the $137.9m total.

Impressionist and Modern overtakes Contemporary

$1m+ works compared with the overall market 2018–2022

The market for $1m+ Impressionist and Modern art was strong in 2022, overtaking Contemporary art as the largest category by value. Of $1m+ sales, $4.25bn were for Impressionist and Modern art, including Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), 1888, by Georges Seurat – the top Impressionist and Modern lot in 2022 – which sold for $149.2m in the sale of Microsoft co- founder Paul Allen’s collection.

In 2022, several auctions of museum-worthy collections assembled by art patrons including Paul Allen, Anne Bass, Ann and Gordon Getty, Harry and Linda Macklowe, and David Solinger accounted for 43.2% of sales in this category.

Contemporary art sales totalled $3.34bn in 2022. With the record-setting sale of Warhol’s $195m Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964, sales of Contemporary art fell slightly in value (0.2%) compared with 2021.

Due to their limited supply, Old Masters make up the smallest segment of the $1m+ market, with $390.4m in sales. But 2022 saw a five-year high for Old Master sales, up 45.7% from 2021, thanks in large part to two masterpieces by Botticelli: Madonna of the Magnificat ($48.5m) and The Man of Sorrows ($45.4m), which were the two top Old Master lots of 2022.

Works sold for $1m+ by section

The $1m–$5m price range

The $1m–$5m price range is where most $1m+ sales were made between 2018 and 2022. Around $10.17bn was spent on 4,613 works, accounting for 32.5% of overall sales by value and 76.6% by lot. The top lot in the $1m–$5m range was Martin Kippenberger, Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche), 1992, which sold for $5m in 2019.

Price segmentation for $1m+ works 2018–2022

Art in the $5m to $20m range represented 17.4% of lots and 31.2% of overall sales during the five-year period.

Although “trophy pieces” selling for $20m+ make up the smallest segment, their appearance in the auction market is growing, especially at the very top end. In 2018, the top lots were: Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917; Edward Hopper, Chop Suey, 1929; and Pablo Picasso, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, 1905.

While the number of such works began to dwindle in 2019, by 2022 they rose again, with 24 lots selling for more than $50m each, for a combined total of $1.96bn. These works accounted for 24.1% of overall $1m+ sales by value. This is nearly double the sales in 2021, when 14 lots totalled $997.5m, and a 62.1% increase on 2018, when 15 lots totalled $1.21bn.

TOP 10 $1M+ ARTISTS 2018–2022

1PABLO PICASSO (1881–1973)$2.21bn245
2CLAUDE MONET (1840–1926)$1.48bn89
3ANDY WARHOL (1928–87)$1.13bn136
4JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT (1960–88)$1.11bn107
5GERHARD RICHTER (b 1932)$747.7m96
6DAVID HOCKNEY (b 1937)$647.2m67
7FRANCIS BACON (1909–92)$645.5m31
8ZAO WOU-KI (1920–2013)$641.3m131
9RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898–1967)$588.8m97
10MARK ROTHKO (1903–70)$569.6m24

For a complete five-year listing of the top 10 artists within this category, please consult the appendix.

The Impressionist Monet tops our list of most valuable high-end artists with $1m+ sales at auction in 2022. Twenty-five of his works sold for $538.3m, including Le Parlement, soleil couchant, 1900–03, from the artist’s celebrated London series, which was the most expensive of his works sold in 2022, for $76m.

Andy Warhol is the second most valuable, with $482.3m in sales thanks to the record $195m paid for Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964. The $67.5m paid for Picasso’s Femme nue couchée, 1932 – the artist’s most expensive work sold in 2022 – helped place the Cubist pioneer in third, with a total of $445.8m in sales.

Rounding out the top five are British figurative painter Francis Bacon, with $258.2m in sales, and Belgian Surrealist René Magritte, with $221m.

Pablo Picasso, Femme nue couchée, 1932, was the artist’s top-selling work in 2022. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2023
Pablo Picasso, Femme nue couchée, 1932, was the artist’s top-selling work in 2022. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2023

Overall, the 10 artists on our list contributed $2.93bn (36%) to $1m+ total sales in 2022. This is 22.9% higher than in 2021 and 39.4% more than in 2018, when they accounted for $2.1bn of the $7.44bn in $1m+ art sales.

The majority of high-end sales were for works by Modern artists, such as Picasso, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Sales of top Modern artists totalled $1.31bn in 2022, up 37.9% from the previous year.

The calibre of Impressionist pieces offered at single-collection auctions helped this group reach $729.7m in total sales, up 42.7% from 2021. This was more than the top-ranking Post-War artists ($482.3m), including Warhol, and Contemporary artists ($405.6m), such as Gerhard Richter.

Private sales 2018–2022

Sotheby’s provided proprietary data for this report about its private sales of art – those that took place outside of its public salerooms – between 2018–2022.

During this period, 85.9% ($5.3bn) of all private sales by value were for $1m+ works. The pandemic’s disruption of public auctions in 2020 caused a surge in private sales of top-tier works. Sales of $1m+ art rose by 76%, from $803.5m for 191 lots in 2019 to $1.41bn for 212 lots in 2020. Sales of $1m+ works declined over the next two years, settling at $1.05bn in 2022, which represented 88.3% of total private sales that year. Despite this, art sold privately continued to play a major role in the market, with $1m+ sales values 30.8% higher than they were in 2019.

Total private Sotheby’s sales under (in gold) and over (in blue) $1m by value

In 2022, the average price for art in this price bracket was $6.3m, a 33.9% increase on 2021, but still less than the average of $6.7m in 2020 when private sales were at their peak.

Contemporary art accounted for nearly 59.6% of the total number of works sold privately in the $1m+ range between 2018 and 2022. Impressionist and Modern art was the next largest category, representing 25.4% of private sales. Old Masters accounted for 5.3% of works sold privately and Chinese Traditional Paintings and Works of Art just 0.6%. Other categories, such as 20th-century design, handbags and jewellery accounted for the remaining 9.1% of private sales.

Where were bidders from?

Sotheby’s provided proprietary data for this report about who placed bids on $1m+ works of art at its auctions between 2018 and 2022.

Distribution of unique bidders by region
Distribution of unique bidders by region

Collectors from Asia made up nearly a third (32%) of overall bidders from 2018 to 2022, coming just behind Northern Americans (34%) and ahead of Europeans (29%). They also accounted for 31% of the overall amount of money bid, again behind North Americans (36%) and ahead of Europeans (29%). Asian bidders’ buying is most prevalent in the Chinese Traditional Paintings and Works of Art segment, but there has also been an increase in bidding in the Contemporary and Impressionist and Modern markets (18% and 17% of bidders, respectively) between 2018–2022.

The share of Asian bidders rose to 36% in 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. In 2022 their numbers had fallen to 29%, while the share of bids from North American collectors grew to 38%. There was less fluctuation with bidders from Europe, who accounted for 28–30% of $1m+ bids from 2018 to 2022.

In 2018, Baby Boomers represented 48% of the bidders for high-end works, but their numbers dropped to 40.6% by 2022

Although the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946–64) placed the most bids on $1m+ art, their numbers are waning. In 2018, Boomers represented 48% of the bidders for high-end works but their numbers dropped to 40.6% by 2022.

The number of younger collectors, principally those from Generation X (born 1965–80) and Millennials (born 1981–96), is growing. In 2018, Gen X made up 32% of bidders and Millennials represented just 7%. By 2022, Gen X had grown to 35.6% and Millennials had increased to 16% of bidders.

Next: The 1M+ Contemporary Market

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