In the midst of a market that remained on a crazy price trend for a long time before to cool off towards the end of the year, five paintings fetched very high prices in 2008. Good thing for the houses that auctioned them off, four of them were overvalued while only one was on the money.
The absolute winner is Francis Bacon's Triptych executed in 1976 that was acquired in May by Russian trophy-hunter Roman Abramovich for upward of $ 86,2 million, making it the fourth most expensive painting to sell at auction, behind two Picassos and a Gustav Klimt. Abramovich, 42, qualified for the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, with an estimated fortune of £11.7 billion ($16 billion)(1).
Forbes magazine ranked him as the fifteenth richest person in the world. He was considered to be the second richest person currently living within the United Kingdom in 2008. In my opinion, this price was grossly overvalued but if the auctioneers can find a foolish Russian nouveau-riche to increase their bottom-line, I do not see any reason to spoil their joy. This picture will never sell again at this price.
The second overvalued winner of the year is Claude Monet's rather gloomy Le bassin aux Nymphéas executed in 1919 that fetched the price of $ 40.9 million in June. This oil on canvas measuring 39 1/2 by 79 1/8 inches was acquired by London based art advisor Tania Buckrell Pos of Arts & Management International who beat telephone competition for the dark abstraction, and the final sale price shattered the artist’s record. This painting had been owned by the the California industrialist philanthropist Norton Simon who in other times terrorized the people of Christie's.
The third winner of 2008 is Edward Munch's beautiful and awe inspiring Vampire Love & Pain executed in 1894 depicting a woman with long, flaming red tresses biting the neck of a submissive male. The picture made a record price of $38,162,500 in November in a market that had become definitely depressive. The wealth of oil-rich Norway has flung Munch’s star higher in the past few seasons, though this contest, with at least four suitors chasing the prize, eclipsed the previous mark of $30,841,00, set by "Girls on a Bridge" (1902) at Sotheby’s New York in May.
Edvard Munch ( 1863 – 1944) was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, print maker, and an important forerunner of expressionistic art. A macabre quality pervaded his early work. Munch came to Paris in 1889 and based his expressive style on Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gauguin.
The fourth winner of 2008 is the inevitable Englishman Jeff Koons whose Balloon Flower (Magenta) (1995–2000) - a nine-ton, high-chromium stainless steel monument from 1995/2000- that fetched the inflated and overvalued sum of £12,921,250 ($18 million)(1) in June and filled the pocket of the Dallas-based collector Howard Rachofsky.
Jeff Koons was born in York (Pennsylvania in 1955) and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute of College Art. Koons has long been known as a good self-promoter who relies on shiny, kitschy images to gain public attention.
The chateau de Versailles (France) near Paris recently held a Koons exhibit that costed 1.9 million Euros, 800,000 of which went solely to the Split Rocker which is in the gardens and is a reference to Le Nôtre.
Last winner of the year, the nice Beggar’s Joys (1954–55) by Canadian-born Philip Guston (1913-1980) who was a notable painter and printmaker in the New York School, which included many of the Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning. This picture fetched only $10,162,500 versus an estimate of $14–18 million.
It is probable that Sotheby's overlooked the fact that Guston is unknown in Europe, at least in comparison to the pantheon of ex-colleagues such as de Kooning, Pollock, and Rothko. The work set a record for the under-appreciated American artist nevertheless.
In my opinion, this picture altough extremely nice and attractive was also grossly overvalued but it seems that Guston is a rising star as -in May 2005- his very similar "The Street" from 1956 made $7,296,000.
The work sold in the salesroom to San Francisco art adviser Mary Zlot, who is known to counsel Bay Area billionaires Charles Schwab and George Roberts.
(1) At 29th of December 2008 rate of exchange