We have listed the 10 most collectible artists of the world.
Based upon the new auction numbers which Artnet Analytics has just released, here are the top-selling living artists worldwide.
Do you think they will still be well-known in a hundred years from now ?
No one can answer this one. The market fluctuates.
Discovering the best selling contemporary artists helps us find out what the public craves for, and what the art world feeds on.
1. GERHARD RICHTER
Gerhard Richter, born 9 February 1932 is a German visual artist. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. His art follows the examples of Picasso and Jean Arp in undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.
In October 2012, Richter’s Abstraktes Bild set an auction record price for a painting by a living artist at $34 million (£21 million). This was exceeded in May 2013 when his 1968 piece Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral square, Milan) was sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million) in New York. This was further exceeded in February 2015 when his painting Abstraktes Bild sold for $44.52 million (£30.4 million) in London at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale.
2. JEFF KOONS
Jeffrey “Jeff” Koons (born January 21, 1955) is an American artist known for working with popular culture subjects and his reproductions of banalobjects—such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror–finish surfaces. He lives and works in both New York City and his hometown of York, Pennsylvania.
His works have sold for substantial sums, including at least one world record auction price for a work by a living artist. On November 12, 2013, Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City for US$58.4 million, above its high US$55 million estimate, becoming the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction. The price topped Koons’s previous record of US$33.7 million and the record for the most expensive living artist, held by Gerhard Richter, whose 1968 painting, Domplatz, Mailand, sold for US$37.1 million at Sotheby’s on May 14, 2013. Balloon Dog (Orange) was one of the first of the Balloon dogs to be fabricated, and had been acquired by Greenwich collector Peter Brant in the late 1990s.
Critics are sharply divided in their views of Koons. Some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance. Others dismiss his work as kitsch, crass, and based on cynical self-merchandising. Koons has stated that there are no hidden meanings in his works, nor any critiques.
3. CHRISTOPHER WOOL
Christopher Wool (born 1955, Boston) is an American artist.Since the 1980s, Wool’s art has incorporated issues surrounding post-conceptualideas. He lives and works in New York City and Marfa, Texas, together with his wife and fellow painter Charline von Heyl.
Wool is best known for his paintings of large, black, stenciled letters on white canvases. He began to create word paintings in the late 1980s, reportedly after having seen graffiti on a brand new white truck. Using a system of alliteration, with the words often broken up by a grid system, or with the vowels removed (as in ‘TRBL’ or ‘DRNK’), Wool’s word paintings often demand reading aloud to make sense.
Wool’s Word paintings made between the late 1980s and early 2000s are the most sought-after pieces on the art market; as of 2013, seven “word” works feature in Wool’s top ten auction sales. At Christie’s London in February 2012, Untitled (1990), a later word painting bearing the broken word FOOL, sold for £4.9 million ($7.7 million). In November 2013, art dealer Christophe van de Weghe bought Apocalypse Now (1988) for $26.4 million on behalf of a client at Christie’s New York. Wool’s monumental black and white word painting Riot (1990) sold for $29.9 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2015. That same month, Untitled (1990), made with alkyd and graphite on paper and featuring the words ‘RUN DOG EAT DOG RUN’, realized $2.4 million, the record for a work on paper by the artist
4. CUI RUZHUO
Cui Ruzhuo (Chinese, b.1944) is a Contemporary ink painter known for his images of flowers, birds, and landscapes. Born in Beijing, Cui studied under prolific painter and calligrapher Li Kuchan. He then served as a teacher at the Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing, before moving to the United States in 1981.
After returning to China in the mid-1990s, he worked as a mentor for doctoral students at the Chinese National Academy of Art. He also became a renowned collector, amassing hundreds of works of Chinese art.
Cui has come to the attention of an international audience through his record-setting works at auction. In 2011, his painting Lotus achieved more than $15 million at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong. In 2015, Landscape in Snow was purchased for over $30 million at Poly Auction Hong Kong, which made Cui the most expensive living Chinese artist at auction, knocking Zeng Fanzhi out of the top spot.
5. ZENG FANZHI
Zeng Fanzhi is a contemporary Chinese painter. Known for his Expressionist and psychologically probing portraits, he depicts human faces with vivid and lively brushworks that can at times border on abstraction. Zeng often will portray his subjects as seen through a dense thicket of branches, crowding and obscuring the canvas with a chaotic and stylized sense of malaise.
Born in 1964 in Wuhan, China, he went on to study at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, where he developed an interest in German Expressionist painting. Having lived through the Cultural Revolution, Zeng often focuses on this experience in his work. He critically explores the rapidly changing face of contemporary Chinese culture, as evidenced in his iconic painting Tiananmen (2004) of Mao.
The artist was the subject of a major retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2013–2014, and in 2009 he represented China in the 2009 Venice Biennale. As a highly sought-after artist, his colorful painting Mask Series 1996 No.6 (1996) broke auction records in 2008, and became the highest-grossing work by a contemporary Asian artist.
Zeng lives and works in Beijing, China.
6. YAYOI KUSAMA
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist working in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, film, and installation. Producing a body of work unified in its use of repetitive, densely patterned motifs, much of Kusama’s practice is born from an obsession with obliterating the self in the many, as seen in her hallmark work Infinity Mirror Room (1965).
“With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars,” she said.
“All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe. Pursuing philosophy of the universe through art under such circumstances has led me to what I call stereotypical repetition.”
Born on March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto City, Japan she moved to New York in 1958, where she quickly established herself as an important member of the avant-garde alongside Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Eva Hesse. Though she returned to Japan in the 1970s to live in a mental hospital and fell into relative obscurity, her work came back into the public eye after representing Japan in the 1993 Venice Biennale. In 2017, the traveling exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” opened at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The show includes a number of reiterations of seminal tropes in her work, including All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins (2016).
She currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Kusama’s works can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, among others.
7. PETER DOIG
Peter Doig is a contemporary Scottish painter, celebrated as one of the most important representational painters working today. His distinctive work is characterized by its equal focus on both landscapes and figures, melding art historical and personal reference along with painterly abstraction into distinctive, unostentatious compositions.
By forming powerful and affecting snapshots of contemporary existence—such as a childhood ski trip or an orange canoe—Doig’s works are seemingly both categorical and antithetical to globalization. Fiercely eclectic, his paintings share no central formula, and instead function as parts of a whole that provide insight into his personal history and political ethos.
“I’m not trying to make paintings look like photos,” he has said of his process. “I want to make paintings using photos as a reference, the way painters did when photography was first invented.”
Born on April 17, 1959 in Edinburgh, Scotland, he graduated from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1990, and thereafter launched his artistic career when he received a Whitechapel Artist Prize. He has since held several solo exhibitions including those at the Tate Britain in London in 2008 and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2014, and was nominated for a Turner Prize in 1994.
Doig currently lives and works in Trinidad.
8. FAN ZENG
Fan Zeng (Chinese, b.1938) is a contemporary master of traditional Chinese painting, best known for his skillfully executed figurative works. Born in Jiangsu, he studied history, literature, painting, and calligraphy, before enrolling in Nankai University. In 1957, he attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied painting under Wu Zuoren, Li Keran, Jiang Zhaohe, and Li Kuchan.
His works fuse elements of landscape, flower-and-bird, and figure painting, as well as forms of poetry and calligraphy. His paintings of ancient figures are famous for their simple yet vivid style and vigorous brushstrokes.
He held solo exhibitions in Japan throughout the 1980s, and participated in various exhibitions in Asia. In 1984, a permanent museum was built in Japan to house his works. In addition, he has received numerous awards in design and painting. He became a professor of Eastern Art at Nankai University, and was made department head in 1993. At the age of 63, he was elected as the head of the Nankai University Museum of Antiquities and graduate advisor in both the Fine Arts and Literature departments.
He lives and works in the Baochongzhai suburb of Beijing.
9. RICHARD PRINCE
Richard Prince is an American artist best known for his use of appropriated imagery. Prince uses photographs taken from consumer culture—advertising, entertainment, and social media—to probe ideas around authenticity and ownership with his controversial practice sparking debates concerning copyright, intellectual property, and theft within the art world.
With a Pop Art style associated with Sherrie Levine, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons, the Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning has also influenced Prince with regard to his painting techniques. Born on August 6, 1949 in the Panama Canal Zone (now the Republic of Panama) where his parents worked for the United States Office of Strategic Services, Prince moved to New York in 1973.
While working at Time Inc. (then Time-Life), he began to photograph pages of advertising and identify typologies and recurring archetypes. His famous series Cowboys (1980–1992, ongoing) was pulled from Marlboro cigarette ads, while his popular set of Nurse Paintings (2003) drew from covers of pulp novels. In 2014, the artist once again established his ability to provoke controversy over issues of ownership and content, this time with Instagram. Prince’s New Portraits series consisted of blown up screenshots culled from selfies taken by young men and women on the social app.
His works are currently held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goetz Collection in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others. Prince currently lives and works in upstate New York.
10. ED RUSCHA
Ed Ruscha is an American artist whose oeuvre melds Pop Art iconography with the documentarian rigor of Conceptual Art.
With a practice that spans drawing, painting, photography, film, printmaking, and publishing, Ruscha’s background as a graphic designer is evident in his subtle use of typography. He is perhaps best known for his artist’s books, such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), as well as his word paintings which skew the meaning of each word through color, background, and font.
“I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again,” he said of his inspiration.
Born on December 16, 1937 in Omaha, NE, he grew up in Oklahoma City before moving to Los Angeles to study art at the Chouinard Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts). Deeply influenced by the culture and atmosphere of Southern California, Los Angeles as a place has proved to be a consistent wellspring for Ruscha’s imagination.
In 2016, he was the subject of a sprawling exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, titled “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West” it included 99 works which dealt with America’s captivation with the western landscape and manifest destiny. The artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
He continues to live and work in Los Angeles, CA.