April 2023 Market Report

Ahead of one of the busiest months in the auction calendar, we take a look at the top contemporary art auction sales in April 2023. While typically a quieter month in the art market, this April has seen some noteworthy activity across the four major auction houses. This increased activity in the contemporary art market makes it a favourable time to buy artists such as Banksy and Andy Warhol who are among many of the exceptional artists and artworks we offer to collectors.

Overall, the first quarter of 2023 indicates a continuation of trends from 2022. As the tail-end of the covid-19 pandemic continues to affect markets, and with inflationary pressures now a reality in 2023, the art market is continuing to stabilise following its recovery in 2021. Dr Claire McAndrew’s 2023 Art Basel Report found that total sales values in the public auction sector were stagnant, declining only by 1% to $26.8 billion in 2022. A recent report from ArtTactic has found that global auction sales from the top three major auction houses totalled $1.32 billion in the first quarter of 2023. This is down 13.6%  from Q1 of 2022, implying that auction sales are stabilising. However, it will be Q2 2023 totals that will be the real teller of how the market will fair in the rest of this year. 

April 2023 has seen a flurry of activity in the prints and multiples market. Bonhams’ presentation of a new sale concept, ‘Hot Off the Press,’ brought together some of the most significant prints of the last fifty years in one auction. Phillips also held its sale of editions and works on paper in New York midway through the month. But the star sale was at Christie’s, which hosted ‘The Sale of the Century: An Important Corporate Collection of Prints and Multiples,’ comprising more than 400 lots, with a selection of complete portfolios. What is clear from this month’s auction sales is that print portfolios are becoming increasingly desirable for collectors of 20th century artworks. 

The prints and editions highlights of April 2023 are as follows: 

  1. Andy Warhol’s Flowers (complete portfolio of 10) sold for £1.9 million (US$2.3 million) at Christie’s ‘The Sale of the Century’ on 18th April. This is the top price ever achieved for a portfolio of Flowers. Another set achieved £1.1 million this time last year at Phillips’s ‘Editions & Works on Paper’ sale.* 
  2. Barnett Newman’s 18 Cantos (complete portfolio of 18) sold for £1.7 million (US$2.1 million) at Christie’s aforementioned sale on 18th April. 
  3. David Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress sold for £435,975 (US$541,800) at Christie’s aforementioned sale on 18th April, the top price ever achieved for this print. The second highest price achieved for a print of A Rake’s Progress was back in 2005 at Bonhams, where it sold for £40,000 (hammer price). 
  4. Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) sold for £277,500 at Bonhams’ ‘Hot Off the Press’ sale on 19th April, beating the upper end of it’s pre-sale estimate of £150,000. 

Additionally this month, on the upper end of the market, Sotheby’s held a series of spring sales in Hong Kong. Its 50th Anniversary Contemporary Evening Auction led the series, where Yayoi Kusama’s works particularly stood out. Highlights from the spring sales series include: 

  1. Yoshitomo Nara’s In the Milky Lake sold for £10.3 million (HK$100.6 million) at Sotheby’s 50th Anniversary Contemporary Evening Auction on 5th April, making it the sixth most expensive Nara work ever sold at auction. 
  2. Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin (L) sculpture sold for £6.4 million (HK$62.6 million) at the aforementioned Sotheby’s sale exceeding the upper end of its presale estimate of £6 million. This sale marked the top price ever paid for a Kusama pumpkin. 
  3. Another pumpkin, but this time in two-dimensional form, Kusama’s A-Pumpkin, sold for £5.6 million (HK$55.2 million) at the aforementioned sale, making it into one of her top five works ever sold at auction. 
  4. Contemporary artist Loie Hollowell set a new auction record at the aforementioned Sotheby’s sale with her painting Standing in Red, that sold for a total of £1.8 million (HK$18 million). Hollowell’s artworks have been steadily increasing in value since 2021, with her primary marketplace based in Hong Kong. This comes as no surprise to us as she was featured as an up-and-coming artist in our 2021 review of Frieze.

On the Artscapy platform, the top five most viewed artists in 2023 to date are as follows: 

  1. Banksy (19%) 
  2. Damien Hirst (12%)
  3. Archie Franks (8%) 
  4. Grayson Perry (7%) 
  5. Thierry Noir (6%)

Unsurprisingly, the king of street art in the secondary art market came out on top. This month some highlights include the sale of Banksy’s  Exclamation Rat (2003) at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated sale that closed on the 18th April, where the painting sold for a total of £279,400. Banksy continues to reign supreme when it comes to the prints and multiples market, notably with the continuation of Banksy-only sales by the likes of Sotheby’s, one such which closed in London on 20th April. Ever popular, this sale totalled just over £1 million. Now is the time to buy a Banksy, check out our Banksy prints.

The enfant-terrible of the contemporary art world, Damien Hirst, is the second most popular artist viewed on Artscapy. Hirst’s market is characterised by consistency, no better illustrated than by his many Spot paintings that sell continuously throughout the year. A total of twelve Spot paintings were sold via auction in April, the top price paid this month being for Linolelaidoyl Chloride (2012) which sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated sale on 18th April for £60,960. Hirst’s butterfly-themed works also do particularly well on the market. The top price paid for a Hirst painting this April was for Beautiful Dreamer (2008), which sold for £220,909 (HK$2,159,000) at Sotheby’s 50th Anniversary Contemporary Evening Auction in Hong Kong on 5th April. 

In line with auction trends this month, the number of secondary prints and multiples uploaded to our site make up 18% of all the artworks uploaded. Among these, 28% are by Banksy, 14% are by Shrigley and 11% are by Damien Hirst. As collectors increasingly seek out these types of works, we remain committed to providing a curated selection of high-quality prints and multiples that meet our rigorous standards for authenticity and condition.

We present a roster of the best artists and artworks available to ensure our collectors get access to the artists that are favourable to buy now. Just some of these artists include Banksy, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Pejac and more. If you would like to discuss any of these artists and the works we have available book a call with an advisor.

*All prices in this article include the buyer’s premium unless otherwise stated.

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