The Top 10 Lots of 2021

With 2022 well underway, Artory is looking back at the top auction lots of 2021. With the growth of online auctions and the soaring prices of digital art, 2021 was an interesting year of diversification, expansion, and surpassed expectations. Join us here as we list the top 10 lots of 2021.

Artory’s price database, which contains millions of transaction records from auction houses across the globe, is central to the research conducted in the Art Basel and UBS 2020 Art Market Report. From classic masterpieces to innovative digital artworks, Artory contains a diverse array of data points, provenance records, and price histories that are invaluable to collectors and art historians alike. Start your research on Artory today!

Here are the top 10 most expensive lots sold at auction from 2021.

1. Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was both a painter and sculptor, best known for the creation of Cubism.  His use of bold, flat color to capture voluptuous forms showcases his ability to combine mediums and move interchangeably between styles. During 1931-1932, Picasso’s work demonstrated his wide range as an artist that was driven by love and desire and the forms this could take in art.  

“Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” (1932), was recently sold by Christie’s for $103,410,000 making it Picasso’s second highest auction record. Picasso’s most expensive work, “Les Femmes D’alger (Version ‘O’),” (1955) sold at auction for an astounding $179,365,000.

2. Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat first gained traction with his graffiti art. His work further developed and his success skyrocketed as a part of the Neo-expressionism movement. As Basquiat once said, “I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time… and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them”.  

In This Case,” (1983), was sold for $93,105,000 at Christie’s. The piece is part of the “holy trinity” of Basquiat skull paintings, which include Basquiat’s current highest auction record from 2017, “Untitiled” (1982) for $110,487,000. 

3. Sandro Botticelli

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, widely known as Sandro Botticelli, was an Italian painter during the Early Renaissance.  Botticelli’s worked consistently throughout his career; however, it was not until the late 19th Century that his work gained praise and recognition.   

"Portrait Of A Young Man Holding A Roundel," 1444
Portrait Of A Young Man Holding A Roundel,” 1444

“Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel,” (1444), set an auction record for Botticelli, selling for $92,184,000 at Sotheby’s Master Paintings and Sculpture Auction. The piece contains a small roundel, which dates to fourteenth-century Siena and is a separate work of art altogether. More recently, Botticelli’s, “The Man of Sorrows”, was sold for $45,419,700 at Sotheby’s. The sale of this was artwork was secured on the blockchain by the auction house using The Artory’s Registry.

4. Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko rose to popularity for his color field paintings composed of segments of color and irregular rectangular forms. His visual elements include darkness, luminosity, space, and contrast of colors. Rothko often avoided explaining the content of his work, as he felt the abstract image is representative of the fundamental nature of “human drama”.  

“No.7,” (1951), was sold at Sotheby’s The Macklowe Collection auction for $82,468,500. 

5. Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, as well as painter and printmaker, best known for his tall and slender figurines. Although influenced by artistic styles including Cubism and Surrealism, much of Giacometti’s work incorporates features of the human body.  Particularly, he focused on the head and said, “one’s life lies within our eyes”.  

“Le Nez,” (1947), was sold for $78,396,000 at Sotheby’s in The Macklowe Collection auction. 

6. Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is the most well-known post-impressionist artists. He utilized intense color, brushstrokes, and movement as a symbol of expression. Van Gogh believed in challenging his technique and completed over 1,000 drawings and 30 self-portraits during his career. 

Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès,” (1889), was sold at Christie’s for $71,350,000.

7. Claude Monet

As the founder of Impressionism, Claude Monet transformed French painting during the 19th century. In the last two decades of his career, Monet focused almost exclusively on the water lily pond that he created on his property.  This late work shifted towards abstraction and became an inspiration for many artists to follow.   

“Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas,” (1917-19) was sold for $70,353,000 at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Auction. Monet’s most expensive work to date, “Meules” (1890), sold for $110,747,000 at Sotheby’s in 2019.

8. Beeple

Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, is an American digital artist, graphic designer, and animator.  Often including abstract themes in his work, Beeple says, “I’m using the most advanced 3D tools to make comments on current events, almost in real-time”. Beeple’s work set an auction record for the sale of NFT’s in 2021 with Christie’s citing him as one of the top three most valuable living artists.  

“EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS,” (2021) sold at Christie’s Online for $69,346,250 making it the most expensive digital art to be purchased at auction.

9. Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock became largely important in the Abstract Expressionism movement with his most prominent works employing his famous “drip technique”. Expanding on this method, Pollock created approximately 20 “Black Paintings” that he considered a continuation of his aesthetic and practice. Hints of figures underneath layers of paint within Pollock’s work create a highly visual experience.

Number 17, 1951,” (1951), was sold at Sotheby’s in The Macklowe Collection auction for $61,161,000.  

10. Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly generated energy within his work through the use of strong lines, colors, and motifs.  His abstract works include blends of drawing and painting. Due to the large scale of Twombly’s flower paintings, he employed new techniques that created beautiful passages, differing from his previous work.  

“Untitled,” (2007), was sold for $58,863,000 at Sotheby’s The Macklowe Collection auction.  

You May Also Like