Records have been smashed recently for sales of contemporary and modern art. This continues a trend of many years where prices that artworks garnered have eschewed the collapse in other markets. Last week Jeff Koons’ 12-foot-tall stainless steel Balloon Dog (Orange) sculpture sold for €44 million ($59.5m) at Christie’s to make it the highest sum ever paid for a work by a living artist. Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) went for €78m ($105m) which is the highest amount paid for a work by the pop artist. Even a painting by the late Cy Twombly Poems to the Sea achieved a considerably higher price than was expected €16m ($21.7m). But the real hype surrounded the triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon which was bought by an undisclosed collector for a remarkable €106m ($142m).
Art is now the new gold standard for investors. The renowned art collector Michael Orvitz has likened the recent art sales to the commodities markets and Alex Rotter, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in New York has described it as “The ultimate trophy hunting.”
To put these art sales figures in context consider some comparative costs from other recent projects or transactions.
– Indian spacecraft ‘Mangalyaan’ mission to Mars – €54m ($73m)
– Gareth Bale transfer fee from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid – €100m ($135.3m)
– Cost to purchase an Airbus A320 aircraft – €67.7m ($91.5m)