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Contemporary drawing prices [03/23/2009]

Demand for contemporary drawings started to accelerate in New York at the beginning of this decade before spreading to other cultural capitals. In 2002, the MOMA put on a show entitled Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, a large exhibition bringing together 300 contemporary drawings by 26 prominent European, Asian and American artists including David THORPE, Paul NOBLE, Toba KHEDOORI, Kara WALKER, Yoshitomo NARA, Elizabeth PEYTON, Ugo RONDINONE and Chris OFILI.

Since then there have been numerous art fairs dedicated to drawing and there are several planned for the first half of 2009: After London (The Watercolours & Drawings Fair, 4-8 February 2009) and New York (Works On Paper Fair - New York, 27 February - 2 March), Paris is opening its third edition of the Salon du dessin contemporain (26-29 March 2009).

At a global level, there is growing demand for contemporary drawing at auctions, with an increasing number of drawings offered and a steady increase in prices. In 2006, the different auction sessions around the world recorded close to 3,300 sales. In 2008 there were an additional 700 sales and prices were considerably higher. In fact, a comparison of the auction data for these two years shows a constant proportion of works selling below the $10,000 line (three-quarters) but the number of works fetching above $100,000 tripled between 2006 and 2008, from 31 to 93.

Among the fifteen highest bids in 2008, nine involved works by Chinese and Japanese artists. Logically, the most speculative contemporary artists saw major increases in the values of their works. Converted into euros, the 15 bids ranged from €214,880 to €2.3m. The highest bid obtained by Sotheby's Hong-Kong for a large fresco in canon powder by Guoqiang CAI (230 x 620 cm) entitled Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky:People. However this was not the artist’s all-time record; in 2007 a series of 14 drawings by Guoqiang CAI fetched 8.4 million dollars at Christie’s Chinese branch.
After Cai Guoqiang, the top bids in 2008 were generated by the ever-present Jean-Michel BASQUIAT, Jindong YOU, Takashi MURAKAMI, Keith HARING, Robert LONGO, Huayi LI, Bing XU, Violette BANKS and Damien HIRST.
The youngest artist in 2008’s top 15 was Violette BANKS. At 36, she has already had numerous collective and individual shows, particularly at the Saatchi Gallery in 2007 in the framework of USA Today exhibition. First proposed at auction in 2006 by Phillips de Pury & Company, whose contemporary art catalogues are always ‘avant-garde’, her drawing Upside down Confederate Flag fetched $27,000. The following year, her poetic Burnout doubled its estimate at Christie’s when the hammer fell at $160,000! Undoubtedly the prestige of the Saatchi exhibition, which had started a month earlier, substantially boosted the price. In 2008, Phillips de Pury & Company got its revenge on Sotheby’s with a bid of £170,000, ($340,000) for Burnout (Fadeway), a large charcoal work, 1.5 metres tall, at its London branch on 28 June. The new generations of drawers are already fetching prices as high as the big names in the contemporary art field as a whole.


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