according to our long-term data, art made in 1964 has generated more auction turnover than art made in any other year of the 20th century

PARIS, June 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — May’s auction results in New York showed that after all the records set by the Paul G. Allen, Anne H. Bass, and Thomas Ammann collections, 2023 began with relative sobriety. In an interview with journalist Amy Shaw for the Art Newspaper at Art Basel, art dealer Dominique Lévy said he detects the presence of a “clear correction”. Artprice takes this opportunity to review the acceleration of the art market since the beginning of the 21st century, via a quick look at the works that the market values the most.

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Auction turnover (2000-2022) by year of creation in painting

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Auction turnover (2000-2022) by year of creation in painting

“The analysis of auctions results is a fascinating way to examine the evolution of Art History”, explains thierry Ehrmann, President of and Founder of Artprice. “Our databases, have collected objective and comprehensive Fine Art auction data for more than 30 years from all over the world. They therefore provide an extraordinary tool for studying the appetites of collectors and revealing what our contemporaries value the most”.

The triumph of Pop Art

In 1964, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ed Ruscha were at the peak of their careers and these four artists all have auction price records for works created that year, in the midst of the Cold War, just a few months after the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy. These records, to which must be added more than thirteen thousand other auction results for artworks made that year, make 1964 the year-of-creation that generated the greatest volume of auction turnover in the period 2000 to 2023 (twenty-two years), all creative periods combined: $2.48 billion.

Having fetched the second best art auction result of all time at $195 million on 9 May 2022 at Christie’s in New York, Andy Warhol’s Shot sage blue Marilyn (1964) is now a sort of figurehead for that year (1964). Although from a market perspective the previous two years were just as important for Warhol, 1964 is also remembered in the art world for another reason: in 1964 Robert Rauschenberg won the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale. Indeed, promoted by Leo Castelli (and perhaps even supported by the CIA), in 1964 Pop Art imposed itself in the art world thereby consolidating a significant shift of art (and the art market) to the West… a transfer of power from Paris to New York on the international scene. The way this transfer came about has been the subject of intense discussion.

Top 15 auction prices for artworks produced in 1964 

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Top 15 auction prices for artworks produced in 1964

Abstraction, Pop Art and Expressionism

In the mid-1960s, several major artists of the first half of the 20th century were still creating important works. Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and René Magritte were still active. In Asia, Li Keran and Fu Baoshi were perpetuating the art of traditional Chinese painting by giving it very personal touches of modernity, while in Europe Zao Wou-Ki and some of his compatriots were exploring Lyrical Abstraction. In England, a new generation was making its mark: David Hockney was 27 in 1964, Frank Auerbach was 33 and Lucien Freud was 42. They were just at the beginning of their careers, but that year Francis Bacon, aged 55, painted some of his best portraits.

In the United States, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Willem De Kooning, and Clyfford Still were still exploring Abstract Expressionism and Jackson Pollock had passed away a few year back, while a new artistic revolution was emerging: Pop Art. It was this movement that truly imposed America on the international art scene and the international art market. The works themselves were often brilliant and eye-catching but they also often contained covert or less-covert criticism of the American dream. In France, Pierre Soulages has already painted his best canvases, but a new Expressionist scene was beginning to emerge in Germany, with Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz, and Anselm Kiefer, among others. Their work unfolded over many years and therefore did not produce the same concentration of market value as the American Pop Art movement.

The success of this movement was notably due to a relatively small number of series of works on which collectors focused heavily, and these series were created by the great names of American Pop Art and were generally worked and reworked for a few years… around 1964.


Art Basel may be busy, but cautious sales reflect a complex market picture, Amy Shaw, The Art Newspaper, le 15 June 2023.

1964: Pop Art arrives in Europe, a betrayal as seen from France, Thomas Snégaroff, France Info, 2 October 2015.

Market analysis of works created by the Warhol-Basquiat duo exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Artprice, 25 April 2023



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