Three Indian and two Chinese artists are featured in Artprice’s top 10 of contemporary artists for auction revenue from sculptures. While the report’s contemporary painting segment features artists from the US, the UK and China, artists in the contemporary sculpture list are more globally spread. From India comes Anish Kapoor, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher and from China, Chen Li and Wang Zhan. The list, “with revenue totals ranging from €855,000 for Subodh Gupta to more than €11m for Jeff Koons,” is rounded up by three Europeans and two Americans.

The front cover of the Artprice Contemporary Art Market 2009/2010 Annual Report. Image taken from

Image taken from

Click here to read the Artprice Contemporary Art Market 2009/2010 Annual Report (in PDF format), all 76 pages of it. See pages 21-25 for a list of the top 10 contemporary sculptors.

Artprice’s top 10 contemporary artists for sculpture auction revenue
(as listed on ARTinvestment.RU)

1. Jeff Koons, United States, €11,6 million
2. Anish Kapoor, Britain/India, €6,9 million
3. Juan Muñoz, Spain, €4,6 million
4. Antony Gormley, England, €2,3 million
5. Maurizio Cattelan, Italy, €1,7 million
6. Chen Li, China/Taiwan, €1,4 million
7. Wang Zhan, China, €1,3 million
8. Matthew Day Jackson, United States, €1,08 million
9. Bharti Kher, Indian, €1,03 million
10. Subodh Gupta, India, €855,000

According to Artprice, the worldwide demand for contemporary sculpture has never been so high. In less than a decade, prices for works have tripled and therefore this rise in demand is seen as a recent phenomenon. As the art world recovers after the recent economic crisis, relatively “safe” Modern artworks are being favoured by buyers. This can be seen in sculpture sales as well as sales of other mediums: “There were 9 results above the €1m line for Contemporary sculptures in the July 2009 – June 2010 period vs. 23 in the equivalent 2008/2009 period.”

Although Jeff Koons has maintained his annual auction revenue leadership with eighth place in the report’s painting segment and first place in the sculpture segment, there were two Asian sculptors whose auction performances were extraordinary and unexpected. Chinese artist Chen Li’s auction revenue rose 125% compared to the previous reporting period and Indian artist Bharti Kher ranks ninth.

The Five Contemporary Artists

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor's 'Svayambh' (2007). Image taken from

Anish Kapoor's 'Svayambh' (2007). Image taken from

“Anish Kapoor has rocked the art world with his abstract sculptures that dissect form, shape and space simultaneously,” it says in the artist’s biography on artnet auctions. Kapoor was born in Bombay in 1954 and has lived in England since the early 1970s. He is one of Britain’s most famous artists.

Ranked as the second artist on Artprice’s auction revenue list for sculpture, coming in just after Jeff Koons, Kapoor has shown a higher level of stability, although his sculptures have been changing hands on the secondary market since the 1980’s. With a total revenue of €6.7m from 15 sculptures, Kapoor’s annual auction revenue this year (July 2009 – June 2010) was in fact slightly better than his previous year’s total.

Following on from his late 2009 Royal Academy London retrospective, Kapoor’s works have just gone on display for the first time in India. Exhibitions are running in New Delhi and Mumbai and together they make up the largest and most ambitious exhibition project on Kapoor’s work ever.

Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta was born in Khagaul, Bihar and studied at the College of Arts and Crafts, Patna. From 1997, the artist has held solo exhibitions of his paintings and sculptural installations in Delhi, Mumbai, Amsterdam and New York. The artist lives and works in Delhi.

'Spill' (2007) by Subodh Gupta. As quoted on the Saatchi Gallery website, "Gupta employs many of the original techniques of French conceptualist Marcel Duchamp by elevating the ready-made into an art object." Image taken from

'Spill' (2007) by Subodh Gupta. As quoted on the Saatchi Gallery website, "Gupta employs many of the original techniques of French conceptualist Marcel Duchamp by elevating the ready-made into an art object." Image taken from

Gupta perfectly illustrates the current price explosion within contemporary Indian art. His works only began to increase in price after 2005, proved when Before the Plunge sold for €35,300 in March 2006 at Sotheby’s in London. This success continued until a sales fall in 2008 which has instilled an enduring prudence in the community of investors and major collectors. According to Artprice, only four of Gupta’s sculptures were sold at auction this past year, generating a total auction revenue of €855,000. This compares with twelve works sold the previous year (July 2008 – June 2009) for a total of €2.4 million.

Gupta’s works reflect past and present experiences with influence mainly drawn from everyday objects and scenarios. Gupta’s “aesthetic delineates the complex inter-relations of India’s urban and rural communities,” but what he portrays are “the social and economic aspirations of rural communities and lower class Indians” and he does that with an affectionate compassion.

Bharti Kher

This year, Bharti Kher has been in the spotlight with a 7-figure auction result for The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, a representation of a sleeping elephant. This impressive life-size sculpture made of fibre glass and adorned with thousands of bindis, fetched £850,000 (€1.03m) in a June 2010 auction at Sotheby’s London. This single result put Kher in 9th place in this Artprice top 10 list.

More from the report,

Her career has already acquired an international dimension and the artist has been selected to participate in the major exhibition Paris Delhi Bombay which is due to open in May 2011 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

She is one of the generation’s ’emerging’ artists who made their auction debuts in 2006- 2007. At the time, her works were affordable (between €7,000 and €30,000 on average) and they escaped the ambient speculation. Today her auction prices are on a relatively gentle ascension. Bharti Kher also produces numerous paintings that refer to the bindi, the mystical “third eye” in Indian tradition.

Kher’s rocket-like success has confirmed, as stated in the Artprice report, “the strong market influence of gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, who discovered Damien Hirst in the 1990s and who is currently exposing his protégé Takashi Murakami in Versailles.” Kher held exhibitions at Perrotin’s gallery prior to her artwork price hike.

Bharti Kher was born in London in 1969 and is one of India’s best-known contemporary artists. She studied painting and graduated in 1991 from Newcastle Polytechnic. In 1992 she travelled to India, where she met her future husband, sculptor Subodh Gupta. She now lives in New Delhi with Gupta and their two children.

Chen Li

Posting revenue growth of 125%, Li has seen one of the strongest auction revenue progressions of the past year. Li’s works first appeared at auction in 2006, at the time when a new wave of “emerging” Asian artists appeared on the art market. Before the crisis in 2008, Li’s pieces were sold easily at auction with an estimate between €20,000 and €100,000 on average.

Chinese artist Chen Li working on a sculpture. Image taken from

Chinese artist Chen Li working on a sculpture. Image taken from

The recession only slightly affected prices for Li’s sculptures and in November 2009 his auction results began accelerating with Pure Land selling at a Christie’s Hong Kong auction for over €200,000. Then in May 2010, he scored his highest record to date. His monumental work Avalokitesvara was sold for €251,000 at Borobudur in Singapore. An annual result of €1.4m generated from the sale of fifteen sculptures places him 6th in the top 10 contemporary sculpture revenue ranking, just behind Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.

Chen Li was born in Taiwan in 1963 and creates rounded bronze and traditional Buddhist sculptures.

Wang Zhan

Although Wang’s auction record is not mentioned in the Artprice report, Wang is ranked 7 on the top 10 list for auction revenue for sculptures. At the Hosane Spring Auction 2010, Wang’s Artificial Rock No. 116 was sold for $2.87 million.

Wang Zhan is a noted contemporary Chinese sculptor. Born in 1962 in Beijing, Wang entered the Central Academy of the Arts as a sculpture major in 1983. Wang’s style concentrates primarily on abstract forms which he calls “floating stones.” These are large highly-textured rock-like pieces coated in chrome. They are also called “mountain” or “scholar’s rocks.” Wang refers to the series, which he began creating in 1995, as Artificial Jiashanshi.

He is quoted on ArtZine China in 2010 as saying,

“My art practice was moving at almost the same pace with the changes of urban Beijing,” he says. “The true moment of industrialisation came with the reconstruction of Wangfujing in 1993. I had an intuition that many traditional ways of life would be changed. Many of my art works were concerned with these changes; the changes of Beijing spurred me to work.”


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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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