Asians 14 of 20 Top-Selling Contemporary Artists

Asians comprise 14 of the top 20 contemporary artists as of the onset of the Great Recession in August 2008, based on proceeds of art auctions between July 2007 to July 2008 as compiled by Artprice. Among them 12 are Chinese, 1 is Japanese and 1 is an India-born Brit.

The highest ranking Asian artist is China’s Zhang Xiaogang. The Yunnan native is ranked number 5, just behind household names Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince. Zhang favors surrealist portraits of Chinese faces that are almost macabre in their blankly somber expressions and textureless monochromes. His paintings fetched a total of $50.4 million during the subject July 2007-July 2008 period. Zhang was born in 1958.

This mock portrait by Zhang Xiaogang is representative of his monochromatic surrealist style of depicting Chinese people.

Just below Zhang at number 6 is Zeng Fanzhi, a portraitist with a distinctively expressionist style that conjures up the abyss that separates public and private selves. For that reason his best subjects have been great leaders like Mao, Marx, Lenin and Stalin. Zhang’s most iconic work is a 2004 portrait of Mao Tse-tung entitled Tiananmen. His works garnered $43.4 mil in the subject year. He was born in Wuhan Province in 1964.

This painting displayed at the Brooklyn Museum shows Takashi Murakami’s affinity for, and fixation on, pop culture with its obvious inspiration in Pokemon cartoons.

The highest ranked non-Chinese Asian artist is Japanese sculptor and painter Takashi Murakami. His $24.2 million in sales put him at number 8 behind the Chinese expressionist Yue Minjun. With a reflexive affinity for the now experience Murakami freely draws inspiration from diverse pop art like anime and floral-print fabrics while collaborating with contemporary cultural icons like Marc Jacobs and Kanye West. Murakami was born in Tokyo in 1962.

The other non-Chinese Asian artist among the world’s top 20 is Bombay-born Brit Anish Kapoor. He rose to fame in the 1980s by constructing massive, enigmatic structures of steel, stone and fiberglass. One of his most famous works is Cloud Gate located in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Kapoor was born in 1954.

Other top Asian artists in the top 20, all of whom are Chinese, include Yue Minjun (7), Wang Guangyi (9), Liu Xiaodong (10), Cai Guo-Qiang (11), Yan Pei-Ming (12), Chen Yifei (13), Fang Lijun (14), Liu Ye (15) and Zhou Chunya (17).