Warhol Wins as Top Auction Seller

Andy Warhol has supplanted the Chinese ink painter, Zhang Daqian, as the world’s biggest seller at auction (Zhang's "Lotus and Mandarin Ducks, 1947, ink and color on paper scroll, shown here)

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social network have witnessed stratospheric sales of works by Warhol.

He fetched $380.3 million in sales in 2012, also beating Pablo Picasso, according to figures compiled by the database Artnet.

The two western artists above -- who died in 1987 and 1973 respectively -- had totals exceeding those for 80-year-old Gerhard Richter, the top living artist, with Zhang tumbling to fourth place from first.

The rankings reflect the increasing dominance of western postwar and contemporary works in the international art market.

Auctions in this category at Sotheby’s, Christie’s International and Phillips de Pury & Co. in New York in November raised a record $1.1 billion, more than twice the total of the previous week’s Impressionist sales, where Picasso traditionally shines.

The ranking of auction sales for artists born after 1880 shows demand for Warhol barely exceeded the $379.4 million raised in 2011.

Warhol’s all-time auction sales climbed to $2.9 billion in 2012, while Picasso’s reached $5 billion.

Munch Record

This last year, Picasso lost his long-held reputation as the world’s priciest artist at auction.

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) became the most expensive artwork at a public sale when it reached $119.9 million at Sotheby’s, New York, in May.

The previous high had been the $106.5 million paid for Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” in May 2010.

Picasso’s total auction sales were also down, slipping to $334.7 million last year from $366 million.

The average sale price declined to $1.5 million from a record $1.6 million, according to data supplied by Artnet. All its figures include auction-house fees.

Liberty Silkscreen

Picasso’s 1932 “Nature Morte aux Tulipes” was the 10th most expensive artwork sold at auction in 2012 when it brought $41.5 million at Sotheby’s New York in November.

The following week, Warhol’s 1962 “Statue of Liberty” silkscreen raised $43.8 million at Christie’s.

The artist was top of Artnet’s rankings in 2010 with $386 million of auction sales.

Richter’s $298.9 million total in 2012 was a 48.8 percent increase on 2011, putting him in third place. The German painter ranked sixth in 2011.

Boosted by the record 21.3 million pounds ($34.2 million) for a 1994 abstract owned by Eric Clapton at Sotheby’s in October, Richter this year joined a select club of post-1880 artists whose all-time value of auction sales has exceeded $1 billion, according to Artnet.

Auction sales of Zhang, who died in 1983, slumped to $241.6 million from $782.4 million. Economic and political uncertainty reduced domestic demand for Chinese art in 2012, dealers said. The duck scroll above sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong in May 2011 for $26.4 million.

Sales were relatively smaller for the former contemporary art market darlings Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Koons was ranked the 31st biggest-selling artist in the list with $43.8 million of sales, an increase of 5.1 percent on 2011.

Hirst ranked 42nd with $28.9 million, a decline of 10.2 percent on the year before.