Most Expensive Living Artists at Auction

Update: Lucian Freud is now the most expensive living artist at auction with his Big Sue painting.

Over at the Art Newspaper there’s an interesting story about the most expensive living artists at auction, with the baton being passed from Jasper Johns, to Damien Hirst, and now Jeff Koons.

“When the art market of the late eighties transmogrified into a deeply depressed bear, the living artist accolade went into hibernation, sleeping soundly until February 2007, when Peter Doig’s 1991 painting, White Canoe, sold for £5.7m ($11.3m) at Sotheby’s in London.” Art Newspaper

False Start Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns – False Start
Jasper Johns was the most expensive living artist at auction in 1988, when his White Flag painting sold for $7 million at Christies, then his False Start painting (above) sold at Sotheby’s the next night for $17 million. He held the title for quite some time..

Lullaby Spring Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst – Lullaby Spring
Damien Hirst took the title in 2007 when his Lullaby Spring sold for about $19.2 million. The Hirst pill cabinet was bought by the royal family of Qatar, the Al-Thani family.

Heart Hanging Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons – Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold)
Jeff Koons is currently the most expensive living artist at auction, with his Hanging Heart work selling for $23.6 million in Novemebr 2007.

And, here’s some great quotes about the price of art by the art critic Robert Hughes..

“The auction room, as anyone knows, is an excellent medium for sustaining fictional price levels, because the public imagines that auction prices are necessarily real prices.” Robert Hughes

“Art prices are determined by the meeting of real or induced scarcity with pure, irrational desire, and nothing is more manipulable than desire.” Robert Hughes

“Most of the time they buy what other people buy. They move in great schools, like bluefish, all identical. There is safety in numbers. If one wants Schnabel, they all want Schnabel, if one buys a Keith Haring, two hundred Keith Harings will be sold.” Robert Hughes

“A fair price is the highest one a collector can be induced to pay.” Robert Hughes

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I think it would be more deserving of such a title Charlie. But that’s just because I like paint, especially paint applied by Lucien Freud.

    So yeah, I hope “Big Sue” does break the record.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What about Hirst’s For The Love of God? It was sold for £50,000,000 (100 million dollars or 75 million euros) in 2007.

  3. The Damien Hirst skull was sold privately, not at auction. The artist retained a share in the work also.

  4. Anonymous says:

    They didn’t win “Most Valuable Artistic Statement for the Benefit of the Human Race Award.” Just cash. ash buys lots of trash.

  5. Who would win the “Most Valuable Artistic Statement for the Benefit of the Human Race Award” Anon?

    I thought about it for a minute and wondered if there was an art prize called “Most Valuable Artistic Statement for the Benefit of the Human Race Award” what would my entry be?

    My entry would be a pile of 6.6 billion birth control pills. The message would not only benefit the human race but could even save the world.


  1. [...] has interviewed the king of kitsch and holder of the “Most expensive artist at auction” title, Jeff Koons. Quite often I find what he has to say more interesting than what he [...]

  2. [...] so glad that a painterly painter now holds the title of the most expensive living artist at auction. Big shiny hearts and pill cabinets might be interesting but how can they compare to a painting by [...]

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