PARIS (AFP).- Works by Andy Warhol topped the list of auction sales in 2012, as the global art market thrived thanks to high sales in New York and in China, the French watchdog Artprice told AFP Tuesday.
After a bumper rise in sales of 21 percent in 2011, the global market grew more than 6 percent last year, found a joint report by Artprice and the group Artron seen by AFP, to be published on Thursday.
Auction sales of art works around the globe -- which include paintings, sculptures and photographic prints -- totalled $12.27 billion (9.42 billion euros) last year.
Sales of colourful Warhols fetched $329 million, allowing the American artist to climb up from third place in 2011 to scoop the top spot he occupied back in 2007.
Chinese artist Zhang Daqian, the favourite at auction houses two years ago, came in second, followed by Pablo Picasso.
Paintings by the German Gerhard Richter were the fourth most popular to go under the hammer. Richter's work "Abstraktes Bild", which went for $30.4 million in October, became the world's most valuable work by a living artist.
Though China retained the number one spot in art auction sales it has held since 2010, sales in 2012 dropped 44 percent from 2011 to $5.07 billion.
The figures mark "the end of explosive growth which started in 2008" said Artron, specialists in the Chinese art market. In 2012, only seven works were sold for over $10 million in China compared to 22 the previous year.
Suspicious of dodgy transactions and counterfeit works, Chinese collectors are buying less, said Artron.
"There were spikes in sales in 2010 and 2011 but it was a bubble for the art market with a boom of transactions, numerous works attracting exceptional prices but also a large number of transactions that were invalid or falsified," the group said.
The report points to "a lack of robust legislation for the Chinese art market" and the "difficulty of taking restrictive or punitive measures" on illegal trading.
"The credibility of auction sales is very low and has considerably diminished the capacity to attract new buyers," said Artron.
In terms of the sales of art works worth more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million, 1.23 million euros), only 45 percent of transactions were actually completed, the group said.
The Western art market, which comprises the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, grew 5.5 percent, with the US placed number two in the global market.
Britain and France followed in third and fourth place, though the financial crisis in Europe significantly impacted sales, the watchdogs said.
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