"Chop Suey" - Edward Hopper


The end of the year and the many international art fairs preceding Christmas allow us to summarize what has happened in the art market in 2018. The success of Basquiat, Fontana, Warhol, Magritte, Monet, Picasso, Wou-Ki-Zao, Miró, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Pollock, de Kooning, Calder, and Rothko have been confirmed; Edward Hopper, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney have established themselves as successful artists, thanks to their sales, which actually outclassed all their competitors.

Italian contemporary artists who did well include the already established Alberto Burri, Rudolf Stingel and Lucio Fontana, who are already appreciated by international investors willing to invest millions in their works, as well as other renowned artists whose works are still six-figure (apart from some exceptions depending on the special quality of the work). Instead of studying the entire production of these artists, we will focus on a group of works by Giorgio Morandi, Piero Manzoni and Giulio d’Anna that, given their features, represent a diversified and highly representative cross section of Italian contemporary art, from Futurism to Conceptual Art, from Figurativism to Arte Povera.

Let us start with Giulio D’Anna; hammer prices for his works have been constantly on the rise since 2015, and his air landscapes have been going for prices that exceeded the minimum estimates of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Dorotheum, since 2017. To write about the quotations of Giorgio Morandi’s works is far too easy, but it is important to stress that in 2018, his still lifes (oil on canvas) that had declined slightly in 2017, have recovered and exceeded almost twice the standards of 2016. Two works by the master from Bologna have entered his top ten; both were sold in 2018: one went for 3.650.000 EUR at Christie’s in New York (1940, 38×50 cm), and the other for 2.169.000 EUR at Sotheby’s in Milan (1923, 45×53 cm). To write about Piero Manzoni is also easy. Despite the fact that the best hammer price for one of his Achromes was paid in 2014 (15.872.000 EUR, , 1959, 110×150 cm, Sotheby’s in London), paintings from this series continue to be sought-after at international auctions.

However, it should be noted that, although the hammer prices for Piero Manzoni’s Achrome paintings have undoubtedly exceeded the estimates of auction houses, the general trend of his coefficient have been fluctuating since 2010, with an alternation of periods of rise and decline. However, by comparing the coefficients of hammer prices since 2010, we get a slightly ascending trend line. This uncertainty is likely to depend upon the quality of the works that were put up for auction every year and their dating. Works dating from 1957 to 1960 are always sold for prices that are significantly higher than those paid for works done in the succeeding years; this trend is so dominant that Piero Manzoni’s first 49 top lots date from the late 1950s, followed by a 1962 Achrome work (969.000 EUR, 48×40 cm, Sotheby’s in London).

Roberto Capitanio


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