Artprice looks back on the highlights of the 2021 auctions and the NFT phenomenon

thierry Ehrmann, CEO and founder of and its Artprice department: “The appearance of NFTs in the auction sphere represents a real revolution, the intensity of which can be explained both by long-bottled demand and a particularly favorable economic context. Beeple’s first record ($ 69.3 million) in March perfectly illustrates this pent-up demand, the magnitude of which Christie’s herself had not foreseen. NFTs challenge the traditional modus operandi of the art market, since artists with no market history (but with a huge community on social networks) can, in a few hours, reach prices usually reserved for René Magritte and Willem de Kooning.

Artprice by explains NFTs for 2022

Artprice looks back on the significant developments in 2021, quarter by quarter.

Q1: Boticelli vs. Beeple

Unveiled in September 2020, just before a second global wave of the Covid pandemic, Portrait of a young man holding a cockade (attributed to the Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli) was offered for sale by Sotheby’s in New York to January 28, 2021. Despite the doubts surrounding the awarding of the world’s most expensive work of art (Salvator Mundi) at Leonardo DeVinci, and despite a still uncontrollable pandemic, this rare masterpiece by Botticelli has sold for $ 92 million, the second-best auction result of all time for a work by an ancient master.

However, the biggest surprise of the year has arrived March 11, 2021 when Christie’s online auction platform sold what at first glance looked like a simple jpeg … for $ 69.4 million. The artist behind the work, Beeple, was completely unknown to the art market, but he had millions of Instagram followers who are familiar with the 5,000 digital works offered by Christie’s in NFT form. Faced with the unexpected enthusiasm of new bidders, the prestigious auction house of François Pinault accepted payment in cryptocurrency for the first time in its history.

Q2: A burst of records in the spring

It took a few months for the art market to fully appreciate the nature and implications of non-fungible tokens. While April 2021, two other big auction houses are also launching in the sale of NFT: Sotheby’s with The fungible collection of Pak, and Phillips with work Replicator by Mad Dog Jones. The prices obtained for these works continue to baffle collectors and analysts.

Fortunately in May 2021, that of New York the big sales of traditional art resumed, and a very physical work of art crossed the $ 100 million threshold for the first time in two years. Woman seated near a window (Marie-Thérèse) (1932) by Pablo Picasso was acquired for $ 103 million at Christie’s on May 13, 2021. In its wake, almost all of the big names in the art market have obtained very reassuring prices: Basquiat, Monet, Van Gogh, Warhol,… with many artists revising their personal auction records.

Top 5 new artist records recorded in May 2021 in New York

  1. Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park # 40 (1971) – $ 27,265,500 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  2. Larval laboratories: 9 cryptopunks $ 16,962,500 – 05/11/2021, Christie’s
  3. Robert colescott: George washington […] (1975) – $ 15,315,900 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  4. Hassam Child: Flags on 57th Street, winter (1918) – $ 12,328,500 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  5. Barbara hepworth: Parent II (1970) – $ 7,110,000 – 05/13/2021, Christie’s

Q3: Online sales did not stop during the summer

Traditionally, the big auction houses have always taken a break from sales during the months of July and August, in connection with the closure of art galleries and art fairs. But in 2020, the postponements caused by the covid pandemic and the establishment of new online sales platforms have prompted auction houses to continue part of their activities throughout the summer period, a year that will continue. is repeated in 2021, the online sale ensuring the circulation of works at destination. all over the world.

A total of 121,000 lots of works of art were auctioned in the third quarter of 2021. This historic transaction intensity for the summer period was largely driven by the Asian market; not just through sessions in Hong Kong, but also in metropolitan France China, South Korea and Japan.

Top 3 Fine Arts results Asia in July and August 2021

  1. Yayoi Kusama (1929): Pumpkin (nineteen eighty one) – $ 4,290,000 – 07/31/2021, Mainichi Tokyo
  2. Fu baoshi (1904-1965): Spring (1963) – $ 4,400,000 – 07/25/2021, Xiling Yinshe Hangzhou
  3. What is Ki Kim (1913-1974): 1-VII 71 # 207 (1971) – $ 4,152,720 – 08/24/2021, Seoul auction

Q4: All the indicators turn green …

The months of October and November saw countless new records for all creative periods: Jackson pollock, Gustave Caillebotte, Pierre Doig, Frida kahlo, Banksy, Pierre Soulages, Agnes Martin, etc. Sales of two very prestigious American collections – the Impressionist Cox Collection at Christie’s and the Post-War Macklowe Collection at Sotheby’s – made the last quarter of 2021 the most successful Q4 in the history of the American art market.

Expected to bounce back after 2020 marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, Artprice will take a closer look at this very positive turn of events in its next Annual Art Market Report.

In addition to the NFT phenomenon, one of the key trends of the year was the emergence of Hong Kong market which has proved to be absolutely decisive for the world art market as a whole. Not only did it host for the first time sales of major works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in Asia, he also broke new records for major signings, both Western (Richard prince) and Asian (Yayoi Kusama). But above all, Hong Kong emerged as the new hub for red chip artists – that is to say young signatures who trigger passionate auctions – like the American artist Singer Avery and Ghanaian artist Amaoko Boafo. Finally and especially… Hong Kong is also establishing itself as one of NFT’s major new sales capitals.


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