Last year, global auction sales of paintings by artists under the age of 40 rose to $259.5 million, up 177 percent from 2020, according to data provided by French auction analysis firm Artprice.
Keen to jump on this fast-moving bandwagon, Sotheby’s has created a new format called “The Now” sales, focusing on businesses with the most sought-after names in the moment. In theory, this 23-piece show was supposed to be a warm-up to selling major works by well-known contemporary artists, but with so much interest—and money—focusing on younger names, for many, it was the evening. The main event.
Like hungry chicks in the nest, Sotheby’s employee banks screamed the phone bids as they outlined Plate 1, the 2020 painting “Falling Woman” by New York-based artist, Anna Wyant. Estimated at $150.00 to $200,000, it was sold to an online model for $1.6 million, beating the $1.5 million record set by the artist at Christie’s last week.
Female artists and artists of color continued to be the dominant forces in the work market for young contemporaries. Sotheby’s proudly announced before The Now sale that, for the first time, female artists outnumber men at one of its auctions.
Capitalizing on Simon Lee’s representation of the United States at the Venice Biennale (where one of her sculptures also won the Golden Lion), Sotheby’s featured a life-size mixed media chairwoman “Birmingham,” from 2012. This sparked yet another feeding frenzy in the telephone competition, the hammer finally landing on the A record of $2.2 million, 10 times the highest estimate before the sale.
The intricate, multi-layered paintings by Los Angeles-based Christina Quarles have impressed critics and visitors at the Biennale Central. The acclaim appears to have increased its market size, as the 2019 canvas “Night Fell Upon Us” soared to a record $4.5 million. Her previous auction was $685,500.
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