2021 Recap: These Highest-Selling Works and Auction-Winning Artists Defined a Record Year for Contemporary Art - Lifestyle Asia

Over 34,000 artists and 102,000 described a “naturally thickening” market.

The art market remained as voracious and virulent as ever in 2021, notwithstanding the persistence of the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Ronald Ventura On Filipino Art And Artists: ‘We Need To Embrace Our Own Iconography, Heritage, And How We View The World’


The online art market saw an estimated $3.125 billion in online art sales via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for the first half of 2021 alone, according to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2021.

Moreover, about $2.7 billion worth of works were auctioned off over the past year, according to Artprice’s 2021 Contemporary Art Market Report. This figure involved a record 34,602 artists and 102,000 transactions, described as evidence that “the market is naturally thickening.”


If the world’s biggest artists by auction revenue were featured in a single collection, this is what the exhibit would look like.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The American artist’s 1983 painting “In This Case” sold for $93.1 million at British auction house Christie’s this year.

The 6.5-foot-tall painting depicting a skull was from the same group as the artist’s most expensive painting auctioned at $110.5 million in 2017. In this case, it had come from the collection of Valentino co-founder Giancarlo Giammetti.

The painting last sold at auction for just under $1 million. Prior to its record sale, the painting’s estimate went up to $50 million before eight bidders fought for the skull.

Overall, Basquiat’s auction turnover between July 2020 and June 2021 was $385.87 million from 162 lots sold.


England-based activist-artist Banksy of street art fame was among the top with at least $181.34 million in auction turnover, with the top sale of his works figured at $25.4 million.

The record-setting work was a partially destroyed painting shredded as a “prank” after previously selling at auction in 2018. Initially called “Girl With Balloon,” the artwork was renamed “Love is in the Bin.”

The work was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London for over 18 times its selling price years prior. It is Banksy’s most expensive work to sell at auction, to date.

Yoshitomo Nara

Nara achieved his second-highest auction price at $15.9 million with his 2000 painting “Missing in Action.” The artwork features the Japanese artist’s signature protagonist, who also figured in his most expensive work that sold for $25 million in 2019.

The work is the third most expensive lot overall in a Phillips evening sale in Hong Kong. It was last sold at a Philippines evening sale in London in 2015 from Miami-based collector Frederic Brandt.

Ronald Ventura

Ronald Ventura is the only Filipino among the top 100 contemporary artists by auction revenue between July 2020 and June 2021. His auction turnover was $4.36 million with his top auction result returning $2.5 million.

The artist beat his previous record during a Christie’s live auction when his “Party Animal” creation fetched for 19.45 million Hong Kong dollars (roughly $2.5 million). “Party Animals” was said to have had the biggest price paid for an artwork by a living Filipino artist. Ventura has also been dubbed the highest-selling artist from Southeast Asia.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho

Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s 1955 painting “Tinapa Vendors” was the highest price sold at auction and the most expensive painting in the Leon Gallery Asian Culture Council.

The artwork was auctioned at P84 million (roughly $1.6 million) from a starting bid of P12 million. It is regarded as the most expensive Philippine painting per square inch.

Banner Photo MJ SUAYAN

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