There were no North American contemporary “art stars” in 1960. Then, on July 19th, 1962, Andy Warhol, age 33, was the feature artist at the Fergus Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibition was 100 paintings of Campbell Soup cans—each one a different flavor.. They were priced at $100 each and five sold, but the dealer bought them back from the buyers to keep the collection together. In 1996, the Museum of Modern Art in New York bought the collection for $15 million.
The 21st century has been even richer for Warhol’s legacy. In 2008, he entered the pantheon of art megastars when his piece Eight Elvises, a twelve-foot wide work, sold for over $100 million. Meanwhile, at auction, the highest Warhol auction price to date for a single piece is the $71.7 million paid for Green Car Crash (1963).
(For some perspective, writer Bryan Appleyard, whose research informs this article, points out that the iconic A Sacra Conversazioni by Titan, whom many consider art history’s foremost painter, sold at auction for a comparably low $16.9 million!)
In 2010, works by Warhol grossed $313 million. In 2010, works by Andy Warhol accounted for 17% of all sales of contemporary art at auction. In 2010, gross sales of Warhol work were 229% higher than in 2009. Between 1985 and 2010, the average prices of Warhol works at auction increased by 3,400%. How’s your portfolio doing?
Bryan Appleyard's full article makes fascinating reading. It analyses the strategic moves of collectors and the relationship between their collecting and market pricing. It is in the publication Intelligent Life, an insert in the October 29th - November 4th, 2011 edition of The Economist.