The 10 Highest-Selling Artworks at Auction in 2018
David Hockney nabbing the title of most expensive living artists was among the biggest surprises
Over the course of the sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips auction houses in May and November, roughly $4 billion—and some of the world’s most coveted works of art—changed hands. And though no work made quite the splash as Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi did last year, 2018 was not without its surprises, with David Hockney swiping Jeff Koons’s title of most expensive living artist chief among them. Meanwhile, new records were set for Edward Hopper and Constantin Brancusi, helping to further the theory that the market is generally favoring the sale of postwar, Impressionist, and modern works over contemporary art.
While Georgia O’Keefe remains the highest-selling female artist for her painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, which sold for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2014, Jenny Saville claimed the title of highest-selling living female artist in October, when her 1992 self-portrait Propped went for $12.4 million at Sotheby’s London.
Below, we recap the top 10 works sold at auction in 2018.
1. Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché (sur le côté gauche)
Sold for: $157.2 million
With the sale of Nu Couché at Sotheby’s in May, Modigliani, who was known for his portraits and nudes, joined the ranks of only a dozen artists whose work has sold for over $100 million.
2. Pablo Picasso, Young Girl with a Flower Basket (Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie)
Sold for: $115.0 million
This painting of a nude young girl from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller was created during Picasso’s Rose period. It had been purchased from the estate of American writer Gertrude Stein in 1968 by a syndicate formed by David Rockefeller Sr. of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art to acquire the collection. The members then drew lots from a hat to see who would have first pick of a work from the collection and David won.
3. Edward Hopper, Chop Suey
Sold for: $91.9 million
This iconic painting is now the most expensive of Hopper’s works ever sold at auction, more than doubling the artist’s 2013 record of $40.5 million and claiming the all-time high for a work of American art when it sold at Christie’s in November.
4. Claude Monet, Nymphéas en Fleur
Sold for: $84.7 million
When this work sold at auction—another standout from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller—it set a new record for the Impressionist master. It had been purchased in 1956 by the Rockefellers through New York’s Knoedler & Co.
5. David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
Sold for: $90.3 million
This historic sale, which occurred during Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Evening sale on November 15, marked the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a living artist. It surpassed the previous record of $58.4 million held by Jeff Koons for the 2013 sale of his giant 12-foot sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange).
6. Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition
Sold for: $85.8 million
The price achieved at May’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale at Christie’s was a record not only for Malevich, the pioneering founder of the Suprematism movement, but also for any work of Russian art.
7. Constantin Brancusi, La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée
Sold for: $71.2 million
This rare sculpture, whose sale at Christie’s in May yielded a world record for the artist, is a portrait of the heiress and writer Nancy Cunard. Cunard never actually posed for Brancusi and was unaware of the sculpture’s existence until many years after its creation.
8. Henri Matisse, Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias
Sold for: $80.8 million
Yet another stunner from the Rockefeller auction, the 1923 painting set a new record at auction for a work by the artist when it sold. The model in the painting, dancer and musician Henriette Darricarrère, was one of Matisse’s favorite subjects at the time.
9. Pablo Picasso, Femme au Béret et à la Robe Quadrillée
Sold for: $68.7 million
This brightly colored work by Picasso depicts his muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter and is said to represent his increasing devotion to his new lover Dora Maar. Painted in 1937, it had never before been on the market. “I haven’t seen such a vibrant Picasso for a long time,” Gérard Faggionato, a partner at the David Zwirner Gallery London, told the New York Times in February 2018. “Look at the wall power.”
10. Pablo Picasso, La Dormeuse
Sold for: $57.9 million
This large-scale figure drawing, another of Walter, sold at Phillips London in March. Executed in 1932, Picasso kept the drawing in his own collection until the end of his life.