2017: The Art Year that Was

As 2018 marches on, it is hard to believe mere weeks ago we were nursing belly aches from our Christmas dinners. To kick-start the art year ahead, Artnet has cast an eye back to 2017 with a fascinating art sale year in review.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’, due to be exhibited at the new Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, broke world records in November 2017 as the most expensive painting ever sold. At a jaw-dropping £335 million, it far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £75 million. As we explored last year, the Da Vinci became embroiled in a bitter legal feud between a consortium of art dealers and Sotheby’s auction house. In a deal facilitated by Sotheby’s, the consortium sold the painting to Geneva “Freeport King”, Yves Bouvier, for £64 million in 2013. Bouvier immediately sold the work for £102.6 million to Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev and Sotheby’s filed for a court order absolving them of any wrongdoing after the consortium claimed they had been short-changed by the auction house. Squabbles aside, the ‘Salvator Mundi’ sale also earned Da Vinci the honour of becoming the artist with the most increased sale record in 2017.

Second only to Da Vinci was late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. He earned the title of artist with the second most increased sale record when ‘Untitled’ changed hands for £85.4 million at Sotheby’s New York in May 2017. The proud new owner of the 1982 painting is Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, who announced the acquisition on  Instagram. Before Basquiat tragically overdosed on heroin in his art studio in Manhattan he gained prominence as one half of graffiti duo SAMO and sold hand-painted T-shirts and postcards to buyers including Andy Warhol. Basquiat’s previous sale record was set in May 2016 when he sold a work for US$57 million (£40 million) at Christie’s New York.

Pablo Picasso smashed a different kind of art world record when he was crowned 2017’s most searched artist in the Artnet price database. 70,949 searches for Picasso were performed by 2,129 subscribers to the database, which is said to be the ‘most trusted database of auction results for fine art, design and decorative artworks’. The painter has garnered worldwide acclaim for his bold Cubist renditions of subjects including the bombing of Guernica and the iconic ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907). A ring crafted by Picasso made headlines in June 2017 when it went under the hammer at Sotheby’s. The ‘wearable Picasso’ contains a miniature cubist portrait of photographer, painter and poet, Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover. It was presented to her by Picasso to smooth over a lover’s spat and sold for US$737,252 (£517,257) including buyer’s premium.

It remains to be seen whether these artists can cling to their records in 2018.

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