How Munch is Too Munch? The 10 Most Expensive Lots From the Recent Spring Auctions

Edvard Munch: "The Scream" 1895, Pastel on Board (Detail)
(Courtesy Sotheby's)

It has been a tumultuous spring in the auction world, with sales of truly spectacular artwork punctuating much mediocrity. As many have pointed out, there is something of a split in the art market, with the freshest, most sought-after blockbuster work going for record prices — qualities shared by all the works on this stellar top-ten list — and the merely pedestrian languishing in salesrooms at or below their estimates or, worse, not selling at all.

In his New York Times wrap-up of the contemporary auctions in New York, Souren Melikian called it a "disconnect in the art market." Later, Georgina Adam in the Financial Times and Mike Collett-White of Reuters also noted the extremely top-heavy market. After a high buy-in rate at Sotheby's contemporary sale in London, ARTINFO's own Judd Tully wrote that it is currently "a market largely uninterested in B-class material."

Indeed, our own in-depth examination of the market this season suggested that interest is waning for all but the most expensive works. But the exorbitant prices at the top (note that the top ten is a $30 million-plus club) all but make up for the middle market woes. As the season comes to a close, and the market goes on a two-month hiatus, the question is: for how long can a handful of splashy results buoy the rest of the market, and what happens when the Russian oligarchs get bored?

To see the top ten auction lots of the spring season — which notably includes two works each by Yves Klein and Francis Bacon, but zero Picassos (he's an honorable mention at #11) — click on the slide show.