Barring a sudden mania for illustrated Haggadahs at next week's Important Judaica sale at Sotheby's New York, the top 10 art auction lots of 2015 have already been decided.
What did it take to make it into the top 10 this year? Well, it certainly helped if the lot were a painting (9 out of 10), depicting a woman (6 out of 10), and created by a white, male artist (10 out of 10). It further helped if it were sold in New York (10 out of 10), at Christie's (7 out of 10), and at an evening sale (10 out of 10.) Finally, it greatly improved a lot's odds to be by Pablo Picasso, who painted three of the artworks in the top 10.
Add it all up and what do you get? Nine-hundred and ninety six million dollars (again: That's $996 million) and change.
The auction houses have yet to release their official 2015 totals, but anyone browsing this year's sales results could tell you that the super-high end of the art market bears an increasingly tenuous connection to the rest of the art world. Put another way, it's like trying to make a judgment about the airline industry based on Gulfstream G650 sales. Forget emerging artists and galleries. Christie's November postwar and contemporary art day sales in New York included over 300 lots of similar, slightly less-sought-after works by artists that included Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, and Andy Warhol and totaled just under $89 million, an amount that would slot in only at No. 5 on the following list. The same for Sotheby's, whose November contemporary day sales totaled $98 million, and whose bestselling lot was an oil painting by Roy Lichtenstein that sold for $3.4 million, or 1.89 percent of the price of this year's top-selling Picasso.
So what makes the following artworks so special, aside from totaling almost $1 billion? Scroll down and judge for yourself.
1. Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O'), 1955
Sold for $179,365,000 at Christie's
2. Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917-1918
Sold for $170,405,000 at Christie's
3. Alberto Giacometti, L'homme au doigt, 1947
Sold for $141,285,000 at Christie's
4. Roy Lichtenstein, Nurse, 1964
Sold for $95,365,000 at Christie's
5. Mark Rothko, No. 10, 1958
Sold for $81,925,000 at Christie's
6. Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), 1968
Sold for $70,530,000 at Sotheby's
7. Pablo Picasso, La Gommeuse, 1901
Sold for $67,450,000 at Sotheby's
8. Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme (Femme à la résille), 1938
Sold for $67,365,000 at Christie's
9. Vincent van Gogh, L'Allée des Alyscamps, 1888
Sold for $66,330,000 at Sotheby's
10. Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Resting, 1994
Sold for $56,165,000 at Christie's
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