Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Market Fame May Never End

Though it’s up for debate if Andy Warhol ever did, in fact, utter his most famous line, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” the enduring aphorism certainly presaged the 21st century’s obsession with micro-celebrity. But while today’s famous faces—in art and beyond—come and go in the blink of an eye, Warhol remains a constant. And if auction results in 2014 are anything to go by, the late artist’s repute is only getting bigger.

2014 was a banner year for the artist, whose works brought in a whopping $653 million at auction globally, including buyer’s premium. The total is $200 million more than was achieved by Picasso works in 2014, and $300 million more than works by Francis Bacon. Though, significantly fewer Picasso and Bacon works came up for sale. The tally is Warhol’s highest-ever by some measure, even beating out Warhol’s pre-crash high of just over $400 million in annual sales in 2007. It accounts for nearly 5% of the entire global art market in 2014 and brings total Warhol auction sales for the past decade to over $3 billion.  

Warhol’s record-setting year comes as major collectors vie for coveted pieces at the very top segment of the market in a year that saw sales up 12% worldwide. Nearly 1,300 works by Warhol hit the auction block last year. But just two stellar works in the New York fall sales accounted for over 23% of Warhol’s 2014 take. Controversially consigned by the state-owned German casino Westspiel, the duo brought a combined $151.5 million in Christie’s blockbuster November sale of postwar and contemporary art, which totaled $852.9 million. Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) (1963) sold for $81.9 million, well above an unpublished presale estimate in the realm of $70 million. Four Marlons (1966), which held an identical estimate, went for a very respectable if less exuberant $69.6 million. (Warhol’s current record was set in November 2013 by Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963), which brought $104.5 million.) 

The artist’s market has been buoyed recently, in part, by a wave of works that has hit auctions as the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts sells its collection in a fundraising effort. But despite the increase in inventory, which can sometimes have a negative effect on an artist’s prices, a new wave of ultra-high-net-worth collectors have continued to raise their paddles for the pop star, whose work remains one of the most recognizable and prestigious coups for collectors. And, if anything, Warhol’s visibility is only on track to increase: a satellite of the artist’s Pittsburgh-based museum is set to open on New York’s Lower East Side in 2017, just in time for the 30th anniversary of his death.

Heather Corcoran

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