This year was a year of art sale records. Records for individual artists, records for living artists, records for American artists and records for items sold at auction. Prices for paintings, sculptures, and drawings skyrocketed into the millions, dropping the jaws of anyone who's not a hedge fund manager, casino tycoon or member of the Qatari royal family.
Alas, like years past, art auction results of 2013 show a persisting pattern: DWMA (dead white male artists) continue to dominate the field, with the Monets and Picassos filling the record ranks, while the Kusamas and Bourgeois trail behind. Perhaps art sales really are becoming "competitions over whose penis is larger," as a recent Huff Post Live panel debated.
While we mull over the dissatisfying trend, here are 19 of the most expensive works sold at auction (or in private) this year. Let us know your thoughts on the eyebrow-raising numbers in the comments.
1. Claude Monet's "L'lle aux Orties": $8.1 Million
To start off the list, we have Monet's 1897 oil painting, which sold for a humble $8.1 million at Christie's in New York City this past November.
2. Edward Hopper's "Blackwell's Island":$19.2 Million
Want a landscape painting depicting Roosevelt Island (before it was renamed for our 32nd president)? You would have needed to drop about $19 million at Christie's in New York City last May.
3. Wassily Kandinksy's "Studie zu Improvisation 3": $21.2 Million
This 1909 painting is an early manifestation of Kandinsky's "Improvisations" series, in which the artist transformed the visual world into mesmerizing configurations of color and shape. It cost someone a cool $21.2 million at Christie's in London this past June.
4. Willem de Kooning's "Untitled VIII": $32.1 Million
This 1977 de Kooning work became his most expensive auction offering, selling for $32.1 million at Christie's in New York City this past November.
5. Gerhard Richter's "Cathedral Square, Milan": $37 Million
Sold at Sotheby's in London this past May, this is Richter's priciest piece yet.
6. Edward Hopper's "East Wind Over Weehawken": $40.5 Million
This 1934 work depicts a streetscape of the New Jersey city across the Hudson River from New York. It was estimated to fetch around $22 million to $28 million at Christie's in New York City this December, but ended up selling just north of $40 million, making it the most expensive Hopper ever sold at auction.
7. Amedeo Modigliani's "Jeanne Hebuterne (au chapeau)": $42.1 Million
This pricey painting, which sold for $42.1 million at a London Sotheby's auction last February, has a tragic story behind it. The work depicts Modigliani's common law wife, a woman who committed suicide, killing herself and her unborn child just one day after the artist himself died at the tender age of 35.
8. Pablo Picasso's "Femme Assise Pres d'une Fenetre (Woman Sitting Near a Window): $44.9 Million
The running price for a 1932 portrait of Picasso's "golden muse," Marie-Therese Walter? About $44.9 million, according to a February Sotheby's sale in London.
9. Norman Rockwell's "Saying Grace": $46 Million
Two telephone bidders competed for nine minutes before the hammer came down on "Saying Grace" this December at Sotheby's in New York. The final price beat out the pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $20 million by a long shot.
10. Mark Rothko's "Untitled (No. 11)": $46.1 Million
Expected to grab around $35 to $45 million, this orange and white canvas was sold for an impressive $46.1 million at Christies in New York City this past November.
11. Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Dustheads": $48.4 Million
Another Record! The above went for $48.4 million at Christie's in New York City last May, becoming Basquiat's most expensive artwork ever sold.
12. Roy Lichtenstein's "Woman with Flowered Hat": $56.1 Million
What looks like a mangled Queen portrait from a surreal deck of cards is actually a Lichtenstein that sold for $56.1 million this past May at Christie's in New York City.
13. Andy Warhol's “Coca-Cola ": $57.2 Million
It may just look like a simple, retro Coca Cola advertisement -- and hey, it basically is -- but the familiar black-and-white pop piece is actually an iconic painting by the one and only Andy Warhol. And it cost someone over $57 million to nab it this past November at a New York City Christie's auction.
14. Jackson Pollock's "Number 19": $58.3 Million
This particular drip painting left the bidding block for $58.3 million at Christie's in New York City this May. Doesn't even come close to the $140 million Pollock artwork that switched hands in a private sale in 2006.
15. Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog (Orange)": $58.4 Million
It wouldn't be a pricey auction listicle without at least one of Koons' shiny balloon animals. This one cost a lucky buyer just over $58 million at a Christie's auction in New York City this past November.
16. Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)": $105 Million
Though it was overshadowed by an even bigger sale at the same Christie's postwar and contemporary sale this November in New York City, "Silver Car Crash" broke records as the most expensive Warhol ever sold at auction.
17. Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud": $142 Million
This 1969 painting by the late Irish painter Francis Bacon sold for a whopping $142 million this November at Christie's in New York City, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction (inflation not taken into consideration). Move over Munch, there's a new scream-worthy painting in town.
18. Pablo Picasso's "Le Rêve": $155 Million
According to Bloomberg, American hedge fund manager Steven Cohen bought Pablo Picasso’s “Le Reve” for $155 million from casino owner Steve Wynn. The private sale happened in March of 2013. That is one pricey dream.
Check out last year's figures below.
The Biggest Art Auction Sales of 2012
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included Damien Hirst's "Beautiful Cannibalistic Electofetish Fighting in the Lava Beds Who Got Eyeballs." That painting sold for $90,196 after premium at Bonham's and therefore does not make our list. The post also incorrectly listed Mark Rothko's "Untitled (No. 11)" price as $86 million, it has since been corrected.