As goes Andy Warhol, so goes the art market

The $569 million man.
The $569 million man.
Image: AP Photo
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Although he died in 1987, Andy Warhol is as trendy as ever. As a matter of fact, the Pop Art pioneer set a new record for auctions by a single artist, with his work generating $569 million in sales last year, up from $367 million the year before.

That helped push the global art auction market to a new record of its own in 2014—$15.2 billion in turnover, a 26% jump from the previous year, according to a new report by French research firm Earlier, a Christie’s executive dubbed 2014 a “banner year,” as both it and rival auction house Sotheby’s posted record sales, driven by a rising interest in contemporary art.

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Warhol’s extensive oeuvre is considered a bellwether for the contemporary art market—nearly 1,400 of his works were auctioned off last year, with 58 going for more than $1 million, and 12 for more than $10 million. He leapt ahead of his frequent companion at the top of the auction rankings, Pablo Picasso, who did a mere $375 million in turnover on more than twice as many works sold.

China accounted for the largest share of auction turnover last year, at 37%, although a cooling economy there slowed the activity somewhat from 2013. The US and UK, by contrast, posted double-digit percentage gains in turnover, with art buyers feeling flush and apparently craving Campbell Soup.