Collectors Just Spent Millions on Contemporary Art. What Could You Buy Instead?
Over the past two weeks, $2.3 billion worth of art sold at auction at Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips in New York. It's a heady number, though several insiders seemed to feel it's evidence the art market is actually cooling down: If every artwork had reached its top estimate, the final tally would have been much higher.
Sure. The auctions could have done better, but it might behoove everyone to take a step back and put these seven-, eight-, and nine-figure numbers in perspective.
The top five lots sold during New York's November auctions totaled $457.8 million, which is $35 million more than it cost to build the entire 200,000 square foot Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum of American Art in New York's Meatpacking District. The top 10 lots totaled $678.8 million, which is the same number as the five-time European champion Barcelona Soccer Club's total 2013/14 annual sales.
This isn't to say that people shouldn't buy art, or that they should value boats, planes, or mansions over paintings; there are arguably far more frivolous things to blow $30 million on than a Picasso. But for insiders and casual observers alike, it's easy to get swept away by the numbers that are airily tossed around during the sales. So we're bringing them back down to earth.
Below, find the auction's top 10 lots, with what you could buy for (roughly) their equivalent amount.
1. $170,405,000 : Modigliani’s Nu Couché or the Broad Museum
2. $95,365,000: Lichtenstein’s Nurse or a Long Island Estate
3. $70,530,000: Twombly’s Untitled (New York City) or a Superyacht
4. $67,450,000: Picasso’s La Gommeuse or a G650 Jet
5. $54,010,000: Van Gogh’s Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé or Donald Trump’s Former Greenwich Mansion
6. $47,514,000: Warhol’s Mao or Having LeBron James on Your Team
7. $37,770,000: Malevich’s Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) or All the Destroyed Aston Martins in Spectre
8. $34,885,000: Freud’s Brigadier or Notre Dame’s Corbett Family Hall and Endowed Football Coaching Position
9. $33,850,000: Monet’s Nymphéas or Hillary Clinton's Entire Fall War Chest
10. $30,965,000: Gauguin’s Thérèse or Julia Roberts’s Hawaiian Estate
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Correction: A previous version of this story stated No.5 as the mansion Trump lived in with Ivanka after their marriage. That's his daughter. Ivana is his wife.