- Business Insider teamed up with art investment company Masterworks to highlight some of the biggest value gains in art auction history.
- These nine paintings, by artists including Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, sold at auction for millions more than their earlier purchase prices.
- Masterworks helps people invest in blue-chip art, a category that includes artists such as Picasso, Basquiat, and Monet, and is often inaccessible to those who aren’t worth millions of dollars.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Buying and selling art has long been known as a hobby for the ultrawealthy – because after all, who else can afford to splash out $US110 million for a Basquiat, or purchase an Amedeo Modigliani for $US150 million?
That’s why Scott Lynn says he founded Masterworks, a company that allows people of all income levels to “invest” in “shares” of art purchased by the company that they would otherwise be unable to buy outright. This practice effectively enables “investors” to have partial ownership of a painting – and collect on their proportional share of any profit once Masterworks sells the painting.
“If you look at the art market today, there’s no way to invest in it other than by buying a multimillion-dollar painting,” Lynn told Business Insider, noting that his company sees the most interest in works from the impressionism period and onward, with millennials “particularly focused just on contemporary” art.
Masterworks teamed up with Business Insider to highlight nine of the biggest value gains in art auction history, showing that investing in fine art by blue-chip artists – art by artists who have historically performed favourably at auction, that retains its value or even grows in value significantly over time – can be a serious money-making endeavour.
Here are nine paintings that eventually sold for millions more than their earlier purchase price:
Gerhard Richter — “A.B. Still,” 1986
The painting: German visual artist Gerhard Richter, considered one of the most popular contemporary living artists, painted “A.B. Still,” which sold at Sotheby’s New York auction in 2016. At the time, it was expected to fetch $US30 million, but ended up selling for a few million more.
Bought by: An unnamed buyer from Germany
Previous sale: The painting was sold by the estate of Steven Ames, a former partner at the investment banking company Oppenheimer & Co. Ames had purchased the painting in 1991 for $US264,000 ($US467,000 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars), according to Art News.
Andy Warhol — “Four Marilyns,” 1962
Genre: Post-war, Contemporary, Pop Art
Bought by: The painting was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2015 for $US36 million, which was below the target estimates of $US40 million to $US60 million, Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina reported at the time. It was sold to an unnamed lone bidder, who was a client of Rebecca Wei, former head of Christie’s Asia.
Previous sales: “Four Marilyns” was owned by Turkish collector Kemal Has Cingilliogu, who bought the painting from Phillips auction house for $US44 million in early 2015. Before that, the work was first publicly sold at Sotheby’s in London in 1992 for $US955,433 (over $US1.6 million in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars).
Gerhard Richter — “Abstraktes Bild,” 1986
The painting: This piece is one of Richter’s largest works at 10 feet tall, as well as one of his first squeegee paintings. Experts believe it sold for so much because it is also one of the artist’s favourite works.
When it sold in 2015 at a Sotheby’s London auction for $US46.3 million, it set the record as one of the most expensive paintings ever sold for a living artist for the second time. It was expected to go for between $US21 million and $US30 million.
Bought by: An anonymous buyer from the US
Previous sales: The painting was previously owned by the Michael and Eleonore Stoffel Foundation, Cologne. Before that, at the request of the artist, it was for a time on an extended loan to the Museum Ludwig, Cologne in the 1990s. The painting sold for $US607,500 in 1999 ($US864,000 in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars), which was a record at the time.
Andy Warhol — “Mao,” 1972
The painting: The idea for this series of paintings reportedly came to Warhol after then-President Nixon announced his intention to travel to China in 1982. Warhol’s friend Bruno Bischofberger had been encouraging Warhol to return to painting after a hiatus, and had the idea that Warhol should try to paint who he felt was the most important figure of the century.
This particular print of “Mao” was expected to fetch $US40 million when put up for auction in 2015 at a Sotheby’s New York auction. Instead, it sold for $US47.5 million.
Genre: Contemporary, Pop Art
Bought by: An unknown telephone bidder
Previous sales: The painting was owned by billionaire Steve Cohen, who bought it in 2007 from Kering founder Francois Pinault. The painting was first publicly offered by Sotheby’s in 1996 for $US1,036,592 (over $US1.5 million in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars.)
Mark Rothko — “No. 11 (Untitled),” 1957
The painting: This is part of a series that saw Rothko use bright colours before he turned towards more somber and darker tones for his work. It sold in a 2013 Christie’s New York auction, where it was expected to fetch between $US25 million and $US35 million. Instead, it sold for over $US46 million.
Bought by: An anonymous buyer
Previous sale: The painting was first sold publicly at a Christie’s New York auction in 1992 to an anonymous buyer for $US1.1 million (over $US1.8 million in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars).
Andy Warhol — “Race Riot,” 1964
The painting: In this painting, Warhol depicts the civil unrest in Birmingham, Alabama, amid the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The riots in Birmingham happened in 1963 and saw police clash with activists. This painting was released a year after the riots.
Per Christie’s New York, it was sold by a private collector for $US62.885 million in 2014 to the Gagosian Gallery.
Genre: Post-War, Contemporary, Pop Art
Bought by: Gagosian Gallery
Previous sales: It was once owned by the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, before being bought by a Sam Wagstaff in New York, then the famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in New York, who sold it in 1989 to a Bruno Bischofberger of Zurich, to then a Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Stahel, of Zurich, where it was sold again in 1992 to a private collector in Monaco. The painting was first sold publicly at a Christie’s New York auction in 1989 for $US1.76 million ($US3.445 million in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars.)
Jean-Michel Basquiat — “Untitled,” 1982
The painting: Basquiat was known for his abstract artwork, which has underlying sociopolitical themes.
He died in 1988 at the age of 27, a few years after creating this painting. At the time of the Sotheby’s auction in 2017, the painting was expected to fetch $US60 million. Instead, it was acquired for over $US110 million – nearly double the initial estimate – setting the record for the highest price ever paid for an American artist at auction.
Art dealer Jeffrey Deitch told the New York Times that this sale placed Basquiat in the same category as Pablo Picasso.
Previous sales: It was previously owned by the Annina Nosei Gallery in New York, before being sold in 1982 to Phoebe Chason of New York, who sold it to Alexander F. Milliken of New York later that year.
It was then auctioned at Christie’s in 1984 to Jerry and Emily Spiegel for just $US20,900 (nearly $US50,000 in inflation-adjusted 2017 dollars).Source: Art News, Sotheby’s, Art Price
Claude Monet — “Meules,” 1890
At the time of the 2019 Sotheby’s New York auction, this painting was expected to sell for $US55 million. Instead, it sold for over $US110 million, making this the most expensive impressionist work ever sold.
Bought by: An unnamed buyer.
Previous sales: It was first owned by Bertha Honouré Palmer, who acquired the painting in 1892 from Monet’s art dealer. The work was passed down through her family. In 1986, it sold to a collector for $US2.53 million ($US5.8 million in inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars).
Amedeo Modigliani — “Nu Couché (sur le côte gauche),” 1917
“Nu Couché (sur le côte gauche)” sold in a Sotheby’s New York 2018 auction for over $US157 million.
Bought by: An unnamed Buyer
Previous owner: The painting was once owned by the painter Léopold Zborowski, who acquired the work directly from the artist. It was eventually purchased by billionaire art collector John Magnier in 2003 for $US26.88 million ($US36.6 million in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars.)
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