Art Investment Auctions

Five Notable Art Sales of 2018


Written by
Marc Garriga

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17 December 2018

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 A decade ago, art, data, and technology were like different planets, each with their own cultural biomes. The evolution of blockchain technology has merged them into a single world. The Alan Turing Institute and The University of Oxford have embraced blockchain-based ledgers to overcome fraud, tax evasion, and illicit business practices. 

For the middle-class investor, however, blockchain offers an entirely different benefit: It makes investment pieces that were once unavailable to all but the wealthiest people accessible. By eliminating influential intermediaries and enabling group investments, it lets people like you invest in the best artworks history has ever known.

The biggest performers of 2018 included van Gogh, Andy Warhol, da Vinci, and Picasso—the kind of names that will never lose their value. Few buyers can scrape $20 million out of their bank accounts, and, thanks to blockchain, they no longer need to. 2018’s most notable purchases included the most celebrated artists of the last century, but cryptocurrency and blockchain have also introduced some interesting new trends. The most important of these is the accessibility the technology is creating for all income groups. If you’ve always wanted to own a coveted Monet or Picasso, blockchain technology trends suggest that you’ll soon be able to make that bid. If you’re not sure you should invest in those coveted masterpieces, historic appreciation trends will soothe your anxieties and those of your financial advisor.

Sales of More Traditional Pieces

art investment maecenas

Amadeo Modigliani "Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)" via Sotheby's

1) Nu Couche

Modigliani’s renowned “Nu Couche,” became one of the most valuable masterpieces ever auctioned when it was sold for a grand $157.2 million in May. Its previous owner bought it for $26.9 million in 2003, which puts his profit at over $100 million. This degree of appreciation isn’t new to the art world. Rare and precious Caravaggio work sells for up to $300 million today, while Cezannes fetch $20 million more. If you owned a da Vinci, you could expect to fetch a cool $450 million per painting. Of course, art investment requires you to choose the right artists, but this becomes decidedly easier when you have the collective wealth of blockchain technology behind you. Dada and Monet are, after all, always going to be precious, and now they’re also accessible.

This year’s top sales performers included van Gogh, Bacon, Picasso, and Rothko. There are no surprises on that list, but following close behind are Kerry James Marshall, David Hockney, and Mark Bradford. James Marshall and Hockney artworks were sold for a respectable $21 and $90 million. Contemporary art investment comes with its own reward. You can usually delight in the knowledge that you’re supporting a living artist and potentially place yourself at the cusp of massive appreciation. Buy well, and the price you sell at will be vastly higher than the one you paid. The art world gives generously across all investment styles, too, from risky speculative investments to stable blue chip ones. You can safely diversify your portfolio, creating all the sturdiness of a traditional collection of stocks and bonds.


A New Wave of Art Sales

art investment

The "Forever Rose" by Kevin Abosh was sold via blockchain for $1 million.

2) A Rose, by Any Other Name

In February 2018, a group of investors pooled their funds to buy a $1 million digital photograph of a rose. The Forever Rose ( was created by Kevin Abosch and sold via blockchain. Never before has art investment been this abstract, partly because digital ledgers with potent authentication tools didn’t exist yet. Over 150 buyers competed for the Forever Rose, proving that the crypto art movement is here to stay. It creates rarity, thereby securing investment potential. Blockchain technology has made digital art provably scarce and decentralised, so the Great Masters can expect some new competition as the blockchain art world races ahead. The first blockchain-based auction happened as recently as May 2018, but it’s already starting to push digital art into the blue-chip realm.

A venture capitalist recently spent $400, 000 on a different Kevin Abosch called “Yellow Lambo.” The piece symbolises cryptocurrency’s wealth, signaling the ubiquity of digital coin in today’s world while simultaneously adding to its buyer’s crypto portfolio. Assets no longer need to be held in the hand to have value, and Abosch is leading the abstract sector as a result.


crypto memePepe the frog via Wikipedia

3) Pepe the Frog

Pepe the Frog represents an important subculture, so it’s unsurprising that it’s crawled into the centre of the crypto art world. Speculators and artists are repurposing Pepe as a blockchain investment. None are collecting quite as much money as The Forever Rose but, collectively, they’ve fetched over a million dollars. Pepe Art is gaining ground, with investments having climbed to $600 from their humble beginnings as $10 pieces.


4) Andy Warhol

Blockchain technology is equally influential in the classic arts market. The first blockchain art auction of traditional work gathered a number of eager bidders in June, ultimately selling 49% of an Andy Warhol screen called 14 Small Electric Chairs. The initial owner, Eleesa Dadiani, acquired the work the old-fashioned way, and blockchain allowed her to keep a controlling hand on the work despite the sale of shares. The bidders will play a role in deciding where the work will be displayed in the future. Maecenas Fine Art democratised the ownership of fine art through the sale, allowing investors to own and invest in valuable paintings. There’s little certainty in the world of investment, but when Warhol or Picasso enter the picture, so to speak, investments become decidedly sturdier. There will never be a new Van Gogh, and therein lies the magic and profitability of ownership.


5) Study for Self-portrait

One of the easiest ways to add a great master’s work to your hallway for less than $100 million is by acquiring lesser-known works by great artists. Francis Bacon’s “Study for a Portrait” sold for just under $50 million on auction in May 2018. The piece exceeded its initial value by $14 million and, now that it’s superseded expectations upon resale, the auction mechanism will influence its prices far into the future. Blockchain technology has now stepped into the mix, giving buyers the power to make intimidating bids. Fine art value is likely to enjoy increasing levels of appreciation in the near future. This is the moment when risk-averse buyers can enter the coveted terrain of high rollers.

There are many ways to invest in art, but its lack of liquidity has acted as a hurdle for middle class buyers. This element will rapidly evaporate through the Maecenas platform, giving you a reliable way to store your wealth.


The Death of a Monopoly

The banking industry is less than enthusiastic about the rise of cryptocurrency because it signals the end of its monopoly. In May this year, an artist named cryptograffiti ( sold a piece called “Terrible Store of Value” for $33, 000 on auction. The artwork mocks the banking sector’s contempt for blockchain technology, not only through the sale itself, but its content, too.

Andy Warhol famously said, “Making money is art,” so he would doubtlessly have celebrated his participation in the crypto art movement had he been alive today.

Cryptocurrency has not only introduced a new way to buy art, but also a new form of digital art. The blockchain market is here to stay, and it’s leaked into every aspect of ownership. Forgery and illegal reproductions can finally be relegated to history, and everyday investors can benefit from it. 


Topics: Art Investment, Auctions

Marc Garriga

Written by Marc Garriga

Marc has over 10 years of experience in Fortune 500 institutions as well as at start-ups across Spain and Singapore. Marc is a T-shaped marketer with extensive experience across sales, growth, product and project management with a strong focus on digital and tech products. Marc has been involved in blockchain projects since 2014.

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This blog post is illustrative and for informative and general education and discussion purposes only. It is not, and should not be regarded as “investment advice” or as a “recommendation” regarding a course of action, including without limitation as those terms are used in any applicable law or regulation. This information is provided with the understanding that with respect to the material provided herein (i) MAECENAS is not acting in a fiduciary or advisory capacity under any contract with you, or any applicable law or regulation, (ii) that you will make your own independent decision with respect to any course of action in connection herewith, as to whether such course of action is appropriate or proper based on your own judgment and your specific circumstances and objectives, (iii) that you are capable of understanding and assessing the merits of a course of action and evaluating investment risks independently.. MAECENAS does not purport to and does not, in any fashion, provide tax, accounting, actuarial, recordkeeping, legal, broker/dealer or any related services. You should consult your advisors with respect to these areas and any material with regards to investment decisions. You may not rely on the material contained herein. MAECENAS shall not have any liability for any damages of any kind whatsoever relating to this material. No part of this document may be reproduced in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written permission of MAECENAS except for your internal and/or personal use. This material is being provided to you at no cost and any fees paid by you to MAECENAS are solely general educational purposes. All of the foregoing statements apply regardless of (i) whether you now currently or may in the future become a user of MAECENAS’s platform or products and (ii) the terms contained in any applicable contract between you and MAECENAS.

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