Despite an ailing world economy, the global art market in 2011 experienced its best year ever recorded — with a 15% increase in revenue — according to a report by the French research company Artprice.
The year’s highest bid for an artwork was lower than the previous year’s $95 million bid for a Picasso (the world record for a work of art), but the sum is nevertheless impressive.
Two post-war artists — the Pop icons Roy Lichtensein and Andy Warhol — were among the top 10 this year, in a list filled with Modern artists. And the top two, both by Chinese artists and sold in China, suggest that the country is becoming the new bellwether of the global art market.
In English, 'Houses with laundry (Suburb II),' this 1914 painting by the Austrian artist Schiele earned a sum within its pre-sale estimated range on June 22 at Sotheby's London. Perhaps because the piece is one of the rare urban landscapes by the artist still owned privately, it set a record for the most expensive Schiele work ever sold.
This painting, which translates to 'Litzberg on the Attersee,' was stolen in 1938 after the German annexation of Austria and only returned last spring, by the Salzburg Museum of Modern Art, to Georges Jorisch. This sort of Klimt landscape usually attracts a lot of attention, and money. It was sold on November 2, at Sotheby's NY.
Picasso usually makes this list--and does so more than any other artist. This small painting was sold on February 8 at Sotheby's in London and depicts his mistress, the young Marie-Thérèse Walter.
The lowest-ranking of the three Chinese paintings in this list, Xu's sold on December 5 at Poly International in Beijing. He beat his previous record of $23 million with this sale.
#5 Francesco Guardi's Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon sold for $38.3 million
What a title. And what a painting. It's not clear if the knowledge of where Guardi was standing enhances the work, but the price it sold for certainly does. This piece sold on July 6 at Sotheby's London.
This painting sold for $35 million above its pre-sale estimate at Sotheby's NY, on November 9. Still's paintings do not often appear at auction (there have only been 16 paintings in the last 16 years), but in 2011, four Still works were auctioned off, earning a total of $101.5 million.
Sold at Beijing's Poly International on June 4, this ink on paper is a work of the Yuan Dynasty. The piece is now the second most expensive old master of the market, pushing Raphael's Head of a Muse into third place.
#1 Qi Baishi's Eagle Standing on Pine Tree with Four-character Couplet in Seal Script sold for $57.2 million
Along with the two other Chinese artists in this list, you probably haven't heard of Qi Baishi. But the Chinese have, and they have the money to buy his work. This sale also made Qi the most expensive (Chinese) artist in the world last year. The work was sold at China Guardian on May 22.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.