Over the course of the past 12 months, international auction houses have blessed art aficionados with several surprises and record-breaking sales. Here is a recap of four art sales that caught our attention this year.
Claude Monet’s ‘Meules’
Last May, Sotheby’s offered one of the 25 “Meules” (“Haystacks”) paintings Monet made in 1890 and 1891 in his home in Giverny, France.
This example, which hit the auction block during the house’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale, was one of the only eight left in private hands.
Similar landscapes from the renowned “Meules” series are in the collection of museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — with one of them selling at auction for $81.4 million (P4.1 billion) in 2016.
After eight minutes of heated competition, the Impressionist canvas sold for an astounding $110.7 million (P5.6 billion), doubling its high pre-sale estimate of $55 million (P2.79 billion) and setting a new auction high for Monet.
Beyond this record-breaking bid, the sale of “Meules” also marked a pivotal moment in the painting’s history.
The coveted work, which had only come to auction once before in 1986, became the ninth-most-expensive painting ever sold at an international auction house.
Jeff Koons’s ‘Rabbit’
Last May, Christie’s led its Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale with Koons’s 1986 stainless-steel sculpture, which is famously inspired by a child’s inflatable toy.
The faceless quicksilver rabbit fetched a groundbreaking $91.1 million (P4.6 billion) with fees, ultimately going to veteran art dealer Robert E. Mnuchin after being chased by half-dozen Christie’s specialists on behalf of their clients.
The sale of “Rabbit” not only far surpassed Koons’s previous auction record of $58.4 million (P2.9 billion) set in 2013 for “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, but put him back on top as the most expensive living artist.
The 64-year-old sculptor momentarily lost his title in November 2018, as a result of the astonishing sale of David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” for $90.2 million (P4.5 billion) with fees.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Lucretia’
Once overlooked, Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi made headlines last November, when her newly-rediscovered “Lucretia” sold for 4.8 million euros (P269 million) at Parisian house Artcurial.
The canvas, which depicts Roman noblewoman Lucretia moments before committing suicide following a sexual assault, was initially expected to fetch between 600,000 euros (P33 million) and 800,000 euros (P44.99 million).
In addition to surpassing its high pre-sale estimate, “Lucretia” nearly doubled Gentileschi’s previous auction of 2.8 million euros (P157 million), which was set in 2017 for her “Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine”.
This outstanding sale reflected a surge of interest in the work of the female Baroque artist, who is now recognized by historians as one of the few painters to match Caravaggio’s sense of drama.
Next spring, the National Gallery will honor Gentileschi in the first major exhibition of her work in the United Kindom, bringing together more than 30 paintings from around the world.
Banksy’s ‘Devolved Parliament’
The British troublemaker joined the ranks of the world’s most expensive artists last October when his satirical “Devolved Parliament” went under the hammer for an astounding 9.9 million pounds (P 653 million) with fees.
The Victorian-style oil on canvas, which depicts Britain’s House of Commons overrun with chimpanzees, not only pulverized its high pre-sale estimate of 2 million pounds (P132 million), but surpassed Banksy’s previous auction record of 1.87 million pounds (P123 million).
Although the sale of “Devolved Parliament” at Sotheby’s went ahead without a glitch, rumors that the artist-provocateur had pulled another prank arose before the house’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction.
Sharp-eyed Banksy aficionados had noticed several inconsistencies between the work auctioned off as “Devolved Parliament” and the painting shown for the first time in 2009 at the Bristol Museum under the title “Question Time”.
Sotheby’s later amended the sale’s catalog to mention that the painting had been “reworked” by the artist after the 2009 “Banksy vs. Bristol Museum” exhibition, also assuring potential buyers that it was certified by Banksy’s Pest Control authentication bureau. CL/JB