For better or worse, the very top of the auction market is its own little world. If a painting that’s expected to fetch US$20 million sells for US$30 million at Christie’s, that doesn’t say much about the market for US$20,000 paintings 60 blocks south in a Lower East Side gallery. Analysing the top of the market, in other words, has implications for, well, the top of the market.

But for those who do have a stake in US$20 million-plus paintings, this was a fairly interesting week at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips in New York. At those auction houses’ impressionist, modern, post-war, and contemporary sales, international collectors demonstrated a continued interest in the same handful of artists as last November’s auctions, which, in turn, faithfully mirrored the top lots from the May season that preceded it.

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In November, the top performers included work by Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and Mark Rothko – and Leonardo da Vinci, but we can be fairly certain that was an exception. The May 2017 sales saw a few others added to the mix including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Constantin Brancusi.

This season’s top 10 lots were a mix of all of the above (as you can see below).

There were signs, though, that a changing of the guard might be imminent. Just one price tier below this year’s top lots were a grouping of comparatively fresh faces. Paintings by Kerry James Marshall and David Hockney sold for a stunning US$21.1 million and US$28.5 million, respectively, at Sotheby’s; a painting by Mark Bradford sold for US$7.6 million at Christie’s.

All three artists, in contrast with the ones listed below, are still alive.

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In the meantime, the top of the market remains lofty: the top 10 lots sold for a combined US$587.4 million in the span of just a week.

1. Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (Sur le côté gauche), US$157.2 million

Painted in 1917, and sold at Sotheby’s.

2. Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition, US$85.8 million

Painted in 1916, and sold at Christie’s.

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3. Constantine Brancusi’s La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard), US$71 million

Conceived in 1928, cast in 1932, and sold at Christie’s.

4. Francis Bacon’s Study for a Self-Portrait, US$49.8 million

Painted in 1977 and sold at Christie’s.

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5. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Flexible, US$45.3 million

Executed in 1984 and sold at Phillips.

6. Vincent Van Gogh’s Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy), US$39.7 million

Painted in 1889 and sold at Christie’s.

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7. Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis, US$37 million

Painted in 1963 and sold at Christie’s.

8. Pablo Picasso’s Le Repos, US$36.9 million

Painted in 1932 and sold at Sotheby’s.

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9. Jackson Pollock’s Number 32, US$34 million

Painted in 1949 and sold at Sotheby’s.

10. Mark Rothko’s No 7 (Dark Over Light), US$30.7 million

Painted in 1964 and sold at Christie’s.

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