Apollo Magazine

Art Market Maths: the celebrity factor

At a post-war and contemporary auction, why settle for one famous name if you can have two?

Photo: Christie's

The art market sometimes seems to defy all logic. It laughs in the face of recession and often ignores small details like critical reception or a steady public reputation when valuing new contemporary work. But there is at least one pattern emerging in the post-war and contemporary free-for-all. Let’s take a look at the leading lots at Christie’s record-breaking November evening sales in 2013 and 2014.

Francis Bacon + (3 x Lucian Freud) = $142.4 million.

Andy Warhol + (3 x Elvis Presley) = $81.9 million.

Andy Warhol + (4 x Marlon Brando) = £69.6 million.

If you can find a double, triple or even quadruple portrait of a famous person, by a famous person (especially if neither of them are still alive to paint or pose for more), then you’re onto a winner. Collectors, like the rest of us, seem not to be able to resist the promise of two for the price of one, even if the one’s price is vastly inflated to accommodate the sitter.

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