published by Art+Auction, 05/09/14 2:45 PM EDT
Wouldn’t it be nice to think that a gender-delimited list is no longer relevant? It’s true that to be a practicing woman artist today is hardly the struggle it would have been in Mary Cassatt’s era. Women artists are actively acquired by museums and honored with major surveys and retrospectives; recent names in the spotlight include Julia Margaret Cameron, Rineke Dijkstra, Zarina Hashmi, Sarah Lucas, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Rosemarie Trockel, Carrie Mae Weems, and Francesca Woodman. Collectors pounce on new inventory by Marlene Dumas, Julie Mehretu, and Dana Schutz. Many women artists are doing well, even very well, thanks to committed galleries and ecumenical collectors. Dealers boast of higher private sale prices than public ones for their female artists. Yet there remains a glass ceiling in the salesroom.
Time and again, the specialists and dealers we spoke to emphasized that the prices commanded on the block were by no means a measure of the works in question in terms of critical acclaim or artistic value. Connoisseurs in search of excellence, they say, would be wise to ignore gender outright — especially if considering works of the 50 artists we have highlighted here, whose critical reputations outstrip their value in the marketplace.
Click here to see ARTINFO’s video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at Art+Auction’s Wise Buys list.
Chantal Akerman | B.1950 | Belgium
Before Matthew Barney invited art viewers to engage in an endurance performance of their own by watching the results of his film practice for multiple hours; before Stan Douglas, Shirin Neshat, and Douglas Gordon made the black box a gallery staple, there was Chantal Akerman. Taking the films of Jean-Luc Godard as her influence, Akerman began an experimental project combining installation with projections and eventually made the moving image the medium of her art. “Twenty years of work amount to a hybrid of installation, film, and video,” says Dieter Roelstraete, currently a senior curator at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, who curated “Too Far, Too Close,” Akerman’s 2012 retrospective at Antwerp’s Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst. “She’s a monumental figure in film history, but she’s peripheral to the larger field of video art.” Rather, he explains, she has ideas for films that wouldn’t work in the traditional cinema and, therefore, found their way into the museum. “She is partially responsible for the invasion of the moving image into the museum,” says Roelstraete. In 2013 her work was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the Kitchen in New York, where she is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery. “She’s different from someone like Steve McQueen, who is working within the Hollywood system,” says the curator. In other words, her experimental status endures.
Etel Adnan | b. 1925 | Lebanon
If the most accomplished formalism is hallmarked by simplicity, the painterly achievements of Adnan—an author, poet, and book artist who has mastered the accordion-folded leporello—are unmistakable. The artist’s uncomplicated renderings of mountains and sky, thickly applied with a knife and likely inspired by a lifetime spent in Beirut, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Paris, evoke place and memory, but Adnan’s explorations are hardly sentimental, repurposing once-narrative shapes as components in sheerly abstract compositions. Some of Adnan’s pieces were featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial as well as in Documenta (13) in 2012. She also was recently named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radius of Arab American Writers. “People respond to the work immediately,” says Photios Giovanis of Callicoon Fine Arts in New York, which sells pieces in the range of $30,000 to $60,000 (she is represented in Beirut by Sfeir-Semler Gallery). “There is an immediacy about the paintings, which places them in relation to the activity of thinking, of thought,” the dealer continues. “Even a viewer who sees the work for the first time responds to this quality.”
Kathryn Andrews | b. 1973 | United States
Self-implication is a sensation that Andrews tries to evoke in viewers of her skewed sculptures and performances, which employ readymades like clown costumes, film props, metal fencing, and other artists’ works to expose what she has called a “dynamic of dependency.” Nor is all as it initially appears: Sometimes what looks like an appropriated object is meticulously crafted in high-polish metal, upending assumptions of value and subjectivity. The Mobile, Alabama, native’s aesthetic captures SoCal’s slickness and seediness in equal measure, which won her inclusion in the 2012 edition of the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.” biennial and a solo at the forward-thinking Museum Ludwig in Cologne in spring 2013. More recently, Gagosian Gallery in Rome featured Andrews alongside fellow Californian Alex Israel. Demand has made supply scarce, thanks to still-reasonable prices of $25,000 to $100,000. “Kathryn is no doubt trying to manipulate and play with the quote-unquote big boys. There are very clear and imaginative reference points and touchstones,” says David Kordansky, her gallerist of the past five years, citing Hirst, Kelley, Koons, and Ray. “And she’s definitely not flirting, I can tell you that.”
—SARAH P. HANSON
Lee Bontecou | b. 1931 | United States
In the early 1960s, Bontecou was the only woman on famed New York dealer Leo Castelli’s roster, which also included Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, and Frank Stella. She was celebrated for her investigations of industrial materials—canvas scraps, pieces of conveyor belts, and gas masks—resulting in monumental, abstract wall reliefs. Fusing painting and sculpture, organic feminine forms and macho automaton aesthetics, Bontecou’s work captured the angst that pervaded the United States in the Cold War era. Her aggressive sculptures from the 1960s are also strong at auction, fetching 9 out of her 10 highest auction prices, topped by Untitled, 1962, which sold for $1.9 million at Christie’s New York in 2010. ?Although Bontecou—today represented by Freedman Art—is best known for her early three-dimensional work, drawing is an equally important component of her artistic practice as affirmed by “Lee Bontecou: Drawn World” at Houston’s Menil Collection last winter, which showcased nearly 80 of the artist’s works on paper. According to Michelle White, the Menil curator who organized the exhibition, “Her large corpus of graphite works has really been a surprise to many this year.”
Sophie Calle | b. 1953 | France
A French conceptual artist, Calle built a career as a voyeur in the pre-digital age, gathering intimate details of other people’s lives for her mixed-media pieces, which consist largely of text and photographed images. For The Hotel, Room 47, 1981, she posed as a chambermaid in a Venice hotel to photograph and document the personal items and messes left behind by guests. For her controversial project The Address Book, she contacted people listed in an address book belonging to a Pierre D., which she found on a Paris street. Having copied its pages before anonymously returning it to its owner, she embarked on a quest to know the stranger through his acquaintances, publishing details of her encounters with them alongside photographs in a series of articles in the French newspaper Libération ?in 1983. For The Sleepers (Les dormeurs), 1979, a 200-element work that sold for an artist-record $218,500 at Christie’s in November 2011, she invited strangers to sleep in her bed while she observed and photographed them. As for the artist’s draw, gallerist Paula Cooper says, “It’s her mind, it’s her storytelling.” This has earned Calle solo shows at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and a place in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
—ANGELA M.H. SCHUSTER
Elizabeth Catlett | 1915–2012 | United States
Homage to My Young Black Sisters, 1968, a life-size, red-cedar sculpture of a stylized female form, with arm and head raised in a gesture evoking the Black Power movement, is emblematic of Catlett’s groundbreaking practice, which probes themes of gender and race through recurring portrayals of mothers and female laborers. The work set an artist record, $288,000, at Swann Auction Galleries in October 2009. Prices on the secondary market for Catlett’s sculptures, created from the 1960s until her death nearly 50 years later, depend on medium and size: Wood and bronze pieces can go for more than $100,000; unique works in terra-cotta, marble, or onyx bring upwards of $50,000. “We have sold more than 100 works by Elizabeth Catlett at auction over seven years,” says Nigel Freeman, director of African-American fine art at Swann. Her most recognized work, however, is not a sculpture but a 1952 print: Sharecropper, reissued in 1968-70. The linoleum-cut print is a portrait of a weathered yet resilient female farmworker. Editions can be found in major museum collections, including MoMA in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Lygia Clark | 1920–1988 | Brazil
Clark, a Brazilian Constructivist and Neo-Concretist, was an early proponent of interactive art who believed that paintings, sculptures, and installations were meant to stimulate the senses. Moreover, by actively engaging the viewer they could be used for psychotherapeutic purposes. Although her angular, hinged-metal “Bichos” (“Critters”) and canvases are held by such institutions as New York’s MoMA; Tate Modern in London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, works from the 1960s and ’70s—masks, gloves, and other objects made of pliant materials—are rarely exhibited in a museum setting because they require viewer participation. But for her retrospective “Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988,” at MoMA this past summer, facilitators were on hand to help visitors experience these sensory works. Prices for Clark’s paintings and sculptures have more than doubled in recent years, crossing the $1 million mark at Bolsa de Arte in São Paulo in August 2013, and have held at that level at sales at both Phillips and Sotheby’s in the ensuing year. “Several factors have contributed to the meteoric rise in prices for her work,” says August Uribe, worldwide co-head of contemporary art for Phillips, “namely, the recovering economy in her native Brazil and increasing international awareness of her work in the wake of exhibitions such as the one at MoMA.”
Mary Corse | b. 1945 | United States
When James Turrell turned the Guggenheim Museum rotunda into an enormous version of one of his “skyspaces” in summer 2013, it triggered a moment for the American Light and Space movement and its well-known, mostly male agents. Less well known is Corse, whose innovative incorporation of tiny glass beads into paint before brushing it onto canvas results in optical illusions that begin with the eyes and vibrate throughout the viewer’s body. Early on, Corse experimented with fluorescent light and glazed clay, but the in-person experience of her subtle monochromatic canvases seems to be spurring greater interest. In 2011 she joined Lehmann Maupin gallery, which presented her with a show in 2012 and brought her work to its booth at the ADAA show in 2013. Her auction record of $60,000 was achieved at Bonhams Los Angeles in October 2013 by Untitled, 1994, which soared past a high estimate of $25,000. Corse is slated for another gallery show in New York in 2015—Ace Gallery represents her on her home turf in Los Angeles—which will likely result in a price hike.
Gertrud Goldschmidt (“Gego”) | 1912–1994 | Venezuela
For more than five decades the German-born Venezuelan kinetic artist, known as Gego, focused on line as a means of expression, creating “drawings without paper” that resulted from shadows cast on architectural surfaces by intricate wireworks, both freestanding and suspended. The geometric nets and lattice-like structures offer a playful dialogue between positive and negative space, connecting the works themselves with the rooms they occupy. Among her best-known pieces is Reticulárea (ambientación), 1969, in the permanent collection of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas. “Gego’s work is very much on par with that of her contemporaries Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto,” says Carmen Melián, senior vice president and senior specialist for Latin American art at Sotheby’s. She observes that her sculptures tend to command prices in the $50,000-to-$200,000 range, while those of her male counterparts can bring four times that. An exhibition of her work, “Gego: Line as Object,” is onview at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, U.K., through October 19.
Camille Henrot | b. 1978 | France
The New York–based 36-year-old took a major step into the limelight when her entrancing video work Grosse fatigue, which tells the story of the creation of the universe, was included in the 2013 Venice Biennale’s “Encyclopedic Palace,” winning her the event’s Silver Lion prize, given to a promising young artist. This past spring her well-received, career-spanning American debut at the New Museum, “The Restless Earth,” introduced the wide variety of her work—ikebana flower arrangements inspired by the texts of Marx and Foucault, for example—to a New York audience. “She’s fearless in the way that she takes on a subject and tries to make something of it. That’s the reason I admire her most,” says Gary Carrion-Murayari, who co-curated the biennale with Massimiliano Gioni. Earlier this year Henrot joined the roster of Metro Pictures, expanding her representation to New York from Paris (Galerie Kamel Mennour) and Berlin (Johann König). Prices are as varied as her practice: Drawings range from €4,000 ($5,400) for a small piece to €30,000 ($40,000) for a multipart work; bronze sculptures and some of her films are priced at €15,000 to €20,000 ($20–27,000); and engravings from the “Légendes dorées” series, for example, can be had for as little as €2,000 ($2,700). This year Henrot has been nominated for the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize and will take part in New Orleans’s Prospect.3 biennial. Another solo exhibition, “The Pale Fox,” which has toured to London’s Chisenhale Gallery and the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, opens at the Bétonsalon Center for Art and Research in Paris on September 20 before making its final stop at Münster’s Westfälischer Kunstverein next year.
Nancy Graves | 1939–1995 | United States
Lucy Mitchell-Innes’s decision to represent Graves’s estate earlier this year was spurred by a 2013 retrospective at the Ludwig Forum Aachen. “Seeing her work, I realized her range,” says the New York dealer. “We’re all familiar with the powerful sculptures from the late 1970s, but there was so much more to her practice. She has these extraordinary, demanding paintings.” The Ludwig show featured 70 paintings, drawings, films, installations, and sculptures revolving around Graves’s eclectic scientific investigations: sculptures comprising heaps of ceramic bones and fossils based on paleontological studies, acrylic canvases, NASA satellite images, and paintings centered on the cartography of the Indian Ocean, to name just a few. The artist also experimented with environmental, conceptual, and performance art, keeping a hand in the artistic movements of the moment. Although Graves—the first woman to solo at the Whitney—is not yet a household name like her peers Chuck Close and Richard Serra (to whom she was married for five years), her works have hit the $250,000 mark in the primary market.
Rebecca Horn | b. 1944 | Germany
The German-born, U.S.-based Horn, whose output includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, poems, and films, excels in challenging our perceptions of our place and the place of objects within the environment. Many of her works involve unexpected extensions of the human body—masks, fans, feathered enclosures—while a series of provocative pieces, including Concert for Anarchy, 1990, in the collection of the Tate in London, project anthropomorphic anxiety onto inanimate objects. The piece features a grand piano hung upside down, with a mechanism that periodically opens its lid and thrusts its hammers and keys out of the case in a cacophonous clatter, only to retract the whole of the mess as visitors mill about below. “Horn is an extremely important artist whose critical acclaim is on par with the likes of Anselm Kiefer, Brice Marden, and Gerhard Richter,” says Sean Kelly, who has championed her work since his early days as a curator and now, some three decades later, as her dealer. ?Pieces by the 2010 Praemium Imperiale prizewinner can still be had at relatively affordable prices, with works on paper in the $15,000 to $20,000 range and large pieces and installations upwards of $1 million. A site-specific sculpture, the Painting Machine, will join another work by Ai Weiwei in the entrance of the Renzo Piano–designed extension unifying Harvard’s three art museums, which is slated to open November 16.
Iman Issa | b. 1979 | Egypt
Issa, who splits her time between Cairo and New York, where she teaches at the Cooper Union, has a wide-ranging conceptual practice that encompasses architecture, fiction, photography, film, and sculpture, for which she won the first Han Nefkens Foundation/Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Award for Contemporary Art in 2012; the following year she got the nod for the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Intrigued by the question of subjective versus collective experience, Issa tends to work in generalities, purposefully disengaging herself from her subjects as a mode of interrogating the resulting distance. Her “Lexicon” series remakes existing artworks and relabels them with verbs and nouns whose relationship to the original is cryptic; it was chosen by curator Juan A. Gaitán for the 8th Berlin Biennale this year. Elsewhere, sculptures that in their cool, elegant formalism recall James Lee Byars are upended by sucker-punch titles like Material for a sculpture proposed as an alternative to a monument that has become an embarrassment to its people, 2010, which was featured in the New Museum’s “The Ungovernables” triennial in 2012. With six group shows this spring alone, Issa—who is represented by talent-tipper Sylvia Kouvali of Istanbul’s Rodeo gallery, which is opening a London branch in October—seems destined for higher visibility.
Jacqueline Humphries | b. 1960 | United States
Those familiar with the work of Humphries don’t merely admire the compositional innovations of her abstract canvases, which appeared in this year’s Whitney Biennial. They’re nearly fanatical about them. “She’s almost like an installation artist—her paintings activate space,” says David Norr, senior curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. “She has a real understanding of how marks and materials build to charge the atmosphere in which works hang. That creates a push and pull within the viewer, whose relationship with the paintings is constantly evolving.” Her rigorous experiments with reflective and iridescent materials—both silver and black-light-activated paint—produce abstractions that are nothing short of mesmerizing. Norr attributes Humphries’s ingenuity to her rise during a time when there was great resistance to abstraction in painting. She and contemporaries, such as Amy Sillman and Laura Owens, “had to figure out other ways for painting to be productive. Her process is a lot more expansive than being rooted in gestural abstraction,” he says. At New York’s Greene Naftali, where Humphries has appeared on the roster since the gallery’s 1995 opening, large works sell for around $150,000, while smaller pieces run around $100,000. Works rarely appear on the secondary market. “There is a very loyal following,” says gallery director Jeffrey Rowledge. Admirers include Cecily Brown, John Currin, and Sean Landers—good company indeed.
Joan Jonas | b. 1936 | United States
Jonas has spent more than 40 years breaking artistic ground in video, multimedia installation, and performance art, and her star has never shone brighter. The 78-year-old professor emerita of MIT’s Program in Art, Culture, and Technology opens a major retrospective at Milan’s Hangar Bicocca on October 2 and will represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2015. “When I see works that I love by Ryan Trecartin, Sean Landers, Aïda Ruilova, Matthew Barney, and Marina Abramovic, I see Joan as having an indirect, and for some, a direct influence on their practice,” says Paul Ha, the U.S. pavilion commissioner and director of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. While Jonas’s videos Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll and Visual Telepathy, both 1972, are canonized as pioneering works exploring video feedback and mediated presence, her current output comprises grand theatrical works that respond to her earlier pieces and an ongoing series of miniature installations entitled “My New Theatre.” Olivier Belot, general director of Yvon Lambert, Jonas’s Paris representative for the past 12 years (she is also represented by Wilkinson Gallery in London and Rosamund Felsen in Santa Monica), says her recent works “reenact performance in private spaces without the performers themselves,” a process that the artist herself calls “virtual performance.” Documentations of these events are acquired mainly by museums and private foundations in the United States, Europe, and Japan for prices ranging from $3,000 to $100,000 for performance-based drawings or $45,000 for video works, such as Wolf Lights, 2004, and Melancholia, 2004–05, in editions of five.
Nadia Kaabi-Linke | b. 1978 | Tunisia
Kaabi-Linke uses a conceptual, minimalist aesthetic, often incorporating found objects from urban environments to produce works that amplify charged cultural issues. “Impunities,” a 2012 series, fuses forensic techniques to laser-engrave scars from domestic violence into glass panes. Similarly, her 2013 series “A Short Story of Salt and Sun” presents imprints of an eroded wall near a defunct seaside resort in Tunisia to represent the country’s crumbling tourist industry. Themes of social injustice and transience are likely the result of the artist’s nomadic life: Born in Tunis and raised in Dubai and Kiev, she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and is currently based in Berlin. “In the last year, Kaabi-Linke’s works have been acquired by the Vehbi Kocn Turkey, and in Hong Kong by the M+Museum i Foundation and the Burger Collection,” notes Asmaa Al-Shabibi, cofounder of Lawrie Shabibi, the artist’s Dubai representative. Kaabi-Linke’s large-scale installations are priced around $90,000, and her smaller sculptures fetch up to $60,000. “What is so special about her works,” Al-Shabibi says, “is her ability to straddle both worlds, appealing to the academic and institutional community as well as to private collectors.”
Birgit Jurgenssen | 1949–2003 | Austria
Jürgenssen’s early photographic self-portraits tackle stereotypically feminine roles with a poker-faced wit: Hausfrauen-Küchenschürze, 1975, is a diptych that shows the artist wearing an “apron” that is actually a trapezoidal stove, complete with an oven door opened to reveal a protruding loaf. Such pieces, many of which were shown at Alison Jacques Gallery in London last fall, earned Jürgenssen a place in the circle of feminist artists that included Valie Export, but her sculptures, drawings, and collages are influenced by Surrealism as much as politics. “Her draftsmanship is exquisite,” says Lisa Panzera, senior director of McCaffrey Fine Art in New York, which co-represents her estate with Jacques and Vienna’s Hubert Winter. “Her imagery is strange, sometimes disturbing, but also lyrical, so there’s a fascinating tension in the work.” With institutional interest mounting, the gallery presented Jürgenssen’s works on paper alongside Sigmar Polke’s at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, and the reception was such that McCaffrey will reprise the pairing in a November show. Prices today range from about $6,800 up to $163,000 for a fine drawing. Says Panzera, “People who know the work and haven’t seen it in a while say, ‘Fantastic, Birgit!’ and the people who don’t know it say, ‘Why don’t I know it?’?”
Kitty Kraus | b. 1976 | Germany
Because of her work with light and with ephemeral materials such as ice and glass, one might think that the Berlin-based Kraus is aiming for a euphoric payoff. Instead, Kraus transcends dramatic showmanship with quiet installations of single bulbs that slowly melt their frozen housings or glass panes that join to create structures referencing both innocent transparency and menacing violence. “They’re like models of entropy,” says Hamza Walker, associate curator of the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago. “Their kinetic nature and process of fugitive movement seem allegorical, but casually so, like the death of a star.” Such seriousness has found its way into group shows at the Guggenheim in New York and White Cube in London, but Kraus’s career is still young, with no secondary market yet in evidence. Still, fans both institutional and individual make her a solid bet for the roster at Galerie Neu in Berlin. “Her rigorous aesthetic earns her critical as well as commercial acclaim,” says the gallery’s Marta Fontolan. These are works to ponder slowly.
Naiza H. Khan | b. 1968 | Pakistan
Over the course of three decades, the Pakistani-born, Oxford-educated Khan has developed an interdisciplinary practice that captures the nuanced chaos of her geopolitical environment with remarkably sensitive technical finesse. “Karachi Elegies,” her U.S. museum debut at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in early 2013, showcased the artist’s trajectory from her early, galvanized-steel sculptures of lingerie, which reflect the flirtatious and oppressive aspects of South Asian femininity, to her recent large-scale, pastel-hued paintings employing random objects such as chairs, telephone cables, and smoke to create haphazard, dreamy landscapes. In the primary market Khan’s sculptures fetch up to $16,000, and her paintings are tagged at $33,000. According to Fabio Rossi of Rossi & Rossi, the artist’s London dealer, “Her exploration of both the very personal and more socially engaged themes of demographic, economic, and sociological changes has led to the creation of works that have great power.” That power helped Khan win a Prince Claus Award last year, as well as a spot in the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, for which she produced an extensive multimedia presentation.
Farideh Lashai | 1944–2013 | Iran
Known for her allegorical video works projected onto painted canvases, Iranian-born Lashai was a consummate storyteller with an ability to channel the turmoil of her own experiences into narratives of universal relevance. For El Amal, 2011–12, created in response to the Arab Spring, the artist projected onto a sparse canvas a video clip drawn from the 1940 film The Great Dictator, ?in which Charlie Chaplin, dressed as Hitler, plays with an orb of light, as the supersize visage of Egyptian music star Umm Kulthum, singing “El Amal” (“Hope and Desire”), looks down on him. An edition of the work sold for $72,100 at Christie’s Dubai in October 2011. Since Lashai’s death at age 68 last year, prices for her works have been on the rise, crossing the $100,000 mark this past spring. “She had a strong market well before her death, but there has been a surge in interest since then, with institutions such as the British Museum seeking works for their collections,” says her longtime New York gallerist Leila Heller, who presented a posthumous show of the artist’s work in spring 2013 and now represents her estate. Heller will be offering a solo exhibition of Lashai’s work later this year.
Maria Lassnig | 1919–2014 | Austria
Opening the artist’s MoMA PS1 survey this past March was Du oder Ich (You or me), 2005, an unnerving nude self-portrait in which the contours of Lassnig’s aging body, rendered in sensuous peach hues, are arched in an aggressive pose: The subject points a gun straight at the viewer while holding another to her temple. Lassnig’s opus stands apart from other narrative work because of her proclivity to create compositions that extend beyond observation to deliver a visceral sense of the body. Her paintings seem to emanate emotions such as excitement and anxiety as well as physical sensations like pressure. “The result was a psychologically charged style of mark making, unlike anything of its time,” says Andrea Teschke, a partner at Petzel Gallery, where paintings such as Du oder Ich have sold for $250,000. Although Lassnig’s prolific career spanned seven decades, the MoMA PS1 exhibit was the most significant survey of her work ever shown in this country. It was not her only recent triumph; at the 2013 Venice Biennale she won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, the spotlight again turned to Lassnig when she passed away in May. “Upon her death, there was a feeling in the art community that she was just getting started,” says Teschke. “There was a sadness in knowing she undoubtedly had so much more to give.”
Sherrie Levine | b. 1947 | United States
Few artists beyond Duchamp receive the kind of credit for game-changing that Levine does among critics and curators, so it’s fitting that her record at auction is for a bronze urinal after Duchamp’s own Fountain: one from a 1991 edition of six, which fell just shy of $1 million at Christie’s in 2012. “She’s one of the most admired artists in the gallery,” says Paula Cooper, who has represented her for 15 years (the artist also shows with Simon Lee in London and Hong Kong, and Jablonka Galerie in Cologne). Ticking off iconic Levine works like her “Newborns” (after Brancusi) and her pool tables (after Man Ray), distinguished for their intellectual rigor and execution, Cooper adds, “There’s so much one could cite that’s outstanding.” Despite vigorous demand from collectors and institutions, particularly in Europe, for decades Levine’s prices paled in comparison with appropriationist peers like Richard Prince; however, the tide is turning. Newer works, like Aleksandr Rodchenko–inspired monochrome canvases shown at the gallery this past spring, are starting higher than they used to. Notes Cooper, “People seem to become absolutely obsessed with Sherrie’s work after they live with it. They come back and buy three, four.” For the time being, that’s still possible.
Blanche Lazzell | 1878–1956 | United States
The West Virginia–born, early American Cubist trained in Paris, where she was a student of Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, and André Lhote, and went on to be a founding member of the Provincetown Painters and an integral member of the artist colony. The market is most active for her woodcuts, which proved to be an ideal medium for her formal experiments, although her Cubist paintings can fetch more than $100,000 at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which has shown her work since 1989. “She holds a unique position historically,” says gallery director Halley K. Harrisburg. “She was a leading exponent of woodblock printing in America, an early advocate of abstraction, and a pioneer of modernism. As a woman during the early 1900s, this was quite extraordinary.” Although Lazzell’s work is in the collections of the Whitney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smithsonian, and many others, it’s only recently that her market has seen a surge. A color woodcut, The Flaming Bush, 1933, one of only two known prints, sold last September at Swann Auction Galleries for $87,500, far above its $10,000-to-$15,000 estimate.
Fang Lu | b. 1981 | China
Using her video camera as a device to impinge on mundane daily activities, Fang sets up private spaces where simple tasks such as dressing, eating, and cooking are transformed into strange reenactments, elevated by the act of performing and the presence of the lens. A cofounder of Video Bureau, a nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and archiving video art, Beijing-based Fang has been attracting attention since completing her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and returning to her native China in 2007. Meg Maggio, director of Beijing’s Pekine Arts, which exhibited its first solo show of the artist in 2013, describes Fang’s work as “ironic and farcical, slow-paced scenarios of women’s lives gone awry.” The artist’s appeal, Maggio adds, lies in her depictions of experiences that are “sincerely personal and at the same time universally accessible.” Works currently sell for less than $20,000. Fang has also been the focus of solo exhibitions at Space Station in Beijing and the Borges Libreria Contemporary Art Institute in Guangzhou. Her work has been featured in surveys of dynamic Chinese contemporary art within China as well as at the Brot Kunsthalle in Vienna, Lisbon’s Museu do Oriente, and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
Anna Maria Maiolino | b. 1942 | Italy
Although Maiolino is Italian-born, her family’s move to Brazil when she was 18 (she is still a São Paulo resident) fostered a cultural view that informs a body of work covering sculpture, drawing, book arts, performance, and video. Brazil’s embrace of its indigenous and ancestral history can be seen in the highly organic form of the artist’s objects rendered in both two and three dimensions. The country’s ambition to reach a kind of utopian modernity, coupled with the years its people spent toiling under a military dictatorship from the late 1960s to the ‘80s, adds a conceptual layer to Maiolino’s practice as she attempts to unite social and philosophical concerns with the body and its survival. “Artists had to figure out a way to work politically but in a way that wouldn’t call undue attention to their practice,” says Apsara DiQuinzio, who curated a solo exhibition of Maiolino’s films, “Matrix 252,” for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive earlier this year. The featured films were “investigations of the body as a repressed object,” DiQuinzio notes. Maiolino had another solo exhibition, “Affections,” at Museu de Arte de São Paulo in 2012–13; her work was also shown at Documenta (13) in 2012, the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, and several São Paulo biennials. The artist’s auction record of $60,035 was achieved for Da Série Propícios, a 39-by-79-inch canvas, at Bolsa de Arte in São Paulo in August 2013, with estimates in the mid five-figure range. Her recently announced representation by the venerable Hauser & Wirth, however, which holds prolific and political artists like Maiolino in high regard, could change that.
Sarah Lucas | b. 1962 | United Kingdom
Of the dozen or so enfants terribles tagged as YBAs in the 1990s, some have had a more durable track record than others. Maybe it’s the oedipal appeal of her stuffed-stocking sculptures, or maybe it’s the delicious irony of a giant, cast-bronze courgette, but put Lucas in the former camp. With shocking accuracy, the artist reaches in and tickles the psychosexual subconscious. She has enjoyed steady representation with Sadie Coles and Barbara Gladstone, but her auction prices have struggled to keep up with primary sales. This past May, Lucas’s market made a giant leap with Ace in the Hole, 1998, an installation of four of her signature “bunnies”—headless, draped soft sculptures that rhyme floppy rabbit ears with seductively slackened limbs, all arranged around a card table. The work achieved $905,000 at Sotheby’s New York: a respectable sum, until compared with that of fellow YBA Damien Hirst, whose record sits just north of $3 million. For his part, Hirst, nothing if not a savvy businessman, has his money on Lucas: He has one of the largest holdings of her works. When she takes over the U.K. pavilion at the Venice Biennale next year, expect mild scatology and inflamed prices.
Nasreen Mohamedi | 1937–1990 | IndiaIn the 1960s and ’70s, some Indian modernists, particularly a group of progressive male artists from Bombay, were preoccupied with figural exploration. Not Mohamedi. Her practice “veered toward pristine forms exemplified in her ‘edge to edge’ drawings, which focused on spatial relationships and surfaces,” says Suman Gopinath, co-curator of the artist’s solo exhibition at Tate Liverpool, on view through October 5. Her works were little known on the international stage until Gopinath and Grant Watson curated her first solo exhibition, “Notes—Reflections on Indian Modernism,” which traveled to seven venues in Europe, including the Kunsthalle Basel and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, between 2009 and 2011. An overdue local retrospective followed at the Kiran Nadar Museum in New Delhi two years later. Today, her work is compared with that of Minimalist pioneers like Agnes Martin and feminist avant-gardists such as Helena Almeida. Such critical accolades have brought market success: Untitled, an undated photographic print on paper, achieved an artist record of INR3,000,000 ($48,600) at Christie’s inaugural Mumbai sale last December.
Virginia Overton | b. 1971 | United States
This sculptor of raw materials and found objects was given her first institutional solo show earlier this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. The frenzied run-up to that event saw her included in at least 50 exhibitions or public installations since the start of 2012. Right now is a definitive moment for Overton’s site-responsive sculptures, commonly made from recycled and repurposed sources like timber, cement, tires, flooring, chairs, and lightbulbs. Her materials are gutsy, and her inventive usage leads to novel structures with simple, elegant manipulations. A temporary installation commissioned by the Storm King Art Center, on view through November 30, is fabricated entirely from 500 feet of brass tubing mounted four feet off the ground; traversing the contours of a vast hay field, it has become visibly weathered by the elements. Lucy Mitchell-Innes of Mitchell-Innes & Nash says it is Overton’s “seemingly minimal gestures” that attract viewers and collectors, who are “surprised and intrigued by her transformation of construction materials and discarded objects into sculptures and installations of enormous levity and grace.” Pieces sell from $15,000 for small sculptures up to $100,000 for larger site-specific installations. Solo shows have been mounted at Kunsthalle Bern, the Power Station in Dallas, Freymond-Guth in Zurich; N.O. Gallery of Milan; and the Kitchen in New York.
Betye Saar | b. 1926 | United States
Coming of age in an era of social inequality, California-based artist Betye Saar has channeled her life experience and tapped into her African roots to create enshrined assemblages and site-specific installations of found objects, family mementos, and fetishes. Many of her works, such as the shadow box The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, 1972, have focused on the stereotyped images of African-Americans—lawn jockeys and black mammies. The former served as hitching posts, while the latter became the subject of kitchen kitsch—notepads and saltshakers—that Saar contends prompted fond memories of a dutiful black in the kitchen in the wake of the abolition of slavery. “Saar is a very spiritual artist who has a way of taking found objects and re-empowering them, giving them different meaning,” says Michael Rosenfeld, whose eponymous gallery represents the artist (Roberts & Tilton represents her in California). “I am intrigued with combining the remnants of memories, relics, and ordinary objects,” Saar has said of her work. “It’s a way of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously, the art itself serving as a bridge.” Saar, whose work is held by MoMA and the Whitney in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, received the 2014 Edward MacDowell Medal in August. The first European retrospective of her work opens at Museum Het Domein in Sittard, Netherlands, next spring.
Kay Sage | 1898–1963 | United States
A Surrealist painter and one of only a few women who were part of the reputedly misogynistic movement, Sage is known for her ominous oil landscapes, which often incorporate unidentifiable architectural structures set against menacing skies. Having struggled during her life to step out of the shadow of husband Yves Tanguy, Sage’s work is now seeing a surge in popularity. A February auction at Sotheby’s London saw Le passage, 1956, which depicts Sage gazing at the horizon, set an artist record of £4.4 million ($7 million), outstripping what seemed a strong estimate at £70,000 ($114,000). “Sage produced only about 200 paintings in her lifetime,” says Debra Wieder, associate director of American art at Hirschl & Adler, “and most of those pieces were bequeathed to museums, making the work extremely rare and desirable.” The gallery had great success exhibiting Sage at the 2013 Art Basel Miami Beach and sells her paintings for $250,000 to $1 million. LACAMA’s 2012 exhibition “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States” included a substantial number of Sage’s works, which are also held by moma and the Whitney, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Zilia Sanchez | b. 1926 | Cuba
With taut, pale, abstract canvases stretched across modular wooden armatures, the Cuban-born, Puerto Rico–based Sánchez evokes the female form, clefts in the earth, moonscapes, and undulating waves that emerge from the picture plane. Her sculptural paintings are at once Minimalist and sensual—and in some cases are the result of multiyear consideration, as Sánchez is known to return to works time and again to adjust them and add tattoo-like notations. “There has been great institutional interest in her work, and that’s who has been buying it,” says Mary Sabbatino, vice president and partner of New York’s Galerie Lelong, which represents the artist and which offered a solo exhibition of her work, “Heróicas Eróticas en Nueva York,” this past spring. “It is fantastic that Sánchez has been rediscovered, albeit in her late eighties,” says Carmen Melián, senior vice president and senior specialist for Latin American art at Sotheby’s, which has sold her canvases in the $20,000 range. “Her works are lyrical, voluptuous, and strong, and show in many ways the spirit of Latin American women. As more people are exposed to her work, her fame and prices will grow.”
Lorna Simpson | b. 1960 | United States
In the 1980s, Simpson emerged as part of a generation of African-American artists that also included Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Fred Wilson, melding Conceptual art strategies and identity politics. After 30 years, her career has never been stronger or more varied. Following a survey show in 2007 at the Whitney Museum and at moca in Los Angeles, Simpson, who was then working primarily in photography and video, reinvested in her drawing practice, and this resulted in a comprehensive show of works on paper at the Aspen Art Museum last year. Simpson also received her first European retrospective in 2013, organized by Joan Simon, with stops at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, Haus der Kunst in Munich, and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, U.K. The show opens stateside at the Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, on September 20. The artist’s 1980s photo-and-text featuring images of a black woman in a white shift challenges viewers to “see how, over time and through different mediums, she has continued to question identity and memory, gender and history, fact and fiction, playing eye and ear in tandem if not in synchrony to prompt consideration of how meaning is constructed,” says Simon. Lately, Simpson has pushed her practice forward by putting herself in front of the camera, re-staging vintage photographs. Alissa Friedman of Salon 94, Simpson’s New York gallery, says the artist receives steady institutional support from major museums like Tate Modern in London. Prices for individual drawings begin at $14,000, midsize multimedia pieces sell for around $75,000, and major works and videos range from $150,000 to $250,000.
Nancy Spero | 1926–2009 | United States
With violent and sexually charged imagery, the activist Spero did not shy away from the tumultuous events of the 1960s—the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Stylistically, her work is evocative of the chronicles of conquest found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs and on the red- and black-figured pottery of the Greco-Roman world, which Spero encountered during her years in Italy. Among her best-known renderings are those from her “War” series, a collection of small works in gouache and ink on paper executed between 1966 and 1970, which feature gunships, phallic bombs, and carnage. For the Italian pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, she created Maypole: Take No Prisoners, a kinetic composition of Medusa-like severed heads with protruding tongues that were hand-printed on aluminum and attached to a steel maypole with red silk ribbons and chains—the heads raining down an embodiment of the realities of war, yet paradoxically affixed to an ancient pagan symbol heralding the arrival of spring. Prices range from $15,000 up to $1 million, while works on paper tend to underperform on the block, selling for $5,000 to $10,000. “Collectors are not always comfortable with the double whammy of feminism and political engagement,” says Mary Sabbatino, of Galerie Lelong, which represents the artist’s estate. “But there has always been strong institutional support for her work,” which is held by moma and the Whitney in New York, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Tate Gallery in London.
Despina Stokou | b. 1978 | Greece
The Athens-born artist is a vociferous presence on the scene in Berlin, where she lives and works. This much should be evident from her paintings, which feature an assertive palette and scratchiti-inspired skeins of text, alternately diaristic or propagandistic, and sometimes rendered as a url that leads to a full-length online disquisition. Often the art world is itself a target: One series, “Ruin Art,” pokes fun at the champagne-fueled fair circuit with transcribed menus from the Delanoin Miami and the Three Kings in Basel. New York dealer Derek Eller, who saw Stokou’s work in Galerie Krobath’s Art Cologne booth in 2012 and soon offered her a show, cites the “energy” and “confidence” of her oeuvre as the attraction for major collectors, some of whom crossed over from their usual categories to acquire paintings. “I can connect her to other artists historically, with some of the moves she’s making, yet it felt very much like her own voice,” says Eller. The momentum helped boost prices for large canvases from about $17,000 into the $25,000 range and garnered Stokou a solo at Eigen + Art in Berlin, which now represents her in Europe, while Ibid in London took her work to Art Basel Hong Kong. Eller opens a show of new work on September 5. Will the waiting list end up as fodder for the next series?
Elaine Sturtevant | 1924–2014 | United States
A pioneer appropriationist, Sturtevant made a career of critically aping—often by hand and from memory—the works of male peers like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. But her work isn’t limited to Pop copies. “I think she’s best understood as an artist who adopted style itself as her medium and therefore could draw attention to aspects of how art is circulated, consumed, and canonized,” says Museum of Modern Art curator Peter Eleey, who is organizing for November what is not only the first American survey of her work but also her first museum show since her 1973 outing at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. Historically, her art was better received in Europe, to which she relocated in 1990, living in Paris until her death at 89 this past May. Despite her low profile in her native land, Sturtevant saw a huge revival of U.S. interest in her work in the last years of her life. The artist’s current auction record was set by Lichtenstein, Frighten Girl, 1966, which went for $710,500 at Phillips New York in November 2011, the same year Sturtevant won the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. Her paintings have sold at auction in the range of $100,000 to $500,000; works on paper for $25,000 to $60,000; and photographs for $15,000 to $25,000. She is represented by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris, Anthony Reynolds Gallery in London, Galerie Mezzanin in Vienna, and was picked up by Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York in 2012.
Mary Weatherford | b. 1963 | United States
Armed with Princeton and Whitney Independent Study Program pedigrees, Weatherford netted a solo show at PS1 in New York in 1989 for her nonobjective paintings, but the economic falloff of the early 1990s meant market success was revoked as quickly as it came. She kept on, addressing the unanswered questions of modernism through such series as targets and flowers that subverted forms trademarked by Johns and Warhol while challenging essentialist feminism. For the past decade or so she has turned her attention to landscapes near her native Los Angeles, mapping subtly coded impressions of light and space. Her dealer there, David Kordansky (she is shown in New York by Brennan & Griffin), says, “We’re talking about an artist who’s not just thinking about form, light, space, composition, color—she’s also interested in politics and in pushing the medium forward. She’s the real deal.” The addition of strips of neon as a formal element circa 2012 literally electrified her lauded canvases, which are hoarded by collectors. They cleaned out Kordansky’s supply at Weatherford’s showin May, at prices ranging from $35,000 to $120,000, hip to tips that she’ll be included in MoMA’s zeitgeisty painting show “The Forever Now” this December.
Cristina Vergano | b. 1960 | Italy
Whether depicting a New World maiden suffering from smallpox at the time of the Spanish conquest, flora and fauna of the natural world, fanciful human–animal hybrids, or illuminated manuscripts and scientific instruments, Vergano’s fanciful painterly works some rendered on found objects—are virtual kunstkammern for the mind. It seems that the whole of history, real or imagined, is fair game for the Milan-born, New York–based figurative artist whose richly rendered canvases, which sell in the $10,000-to-$60,000 range, have found favor with the likes of Madonna and Whoopi Goldberg. For “Panamerican Thanksgiving,” her 1998 debut exhibition at the Woodward Gallery on New York’s Lower East Side, she explored the fallout from the European invasion of the Americas. In her 2003 show “Bitches,” Vergano offered implausible portraits of dogs with the faces of women and girls, some in compromising circumstances. Most recently, she has taken on the complexities of interspecies relationships in the animal kingdom. Woodward will present “Laws of Attraction,” a solo exhibition of her work, November 1 through December 21.
Sue Williams | b. 1954 | United States
It has been said that the medium of painting is an endless well for its practitioners, offering countless ways to render the physical world and mirror the human mind. Williams,it appears, is taking full advantage of this. The artist showed up on the scene some 25 years ago, brandishing bad-girl bite with paintings that cartoonishly depicted the anger of a marginalized experience. She was labeled the poster child for angry feminism—seen by some as a blessing and by others as a curse. Her auction record of $98,500 was earned at a Christie’s New York day sale in 2012 for a work of this ilk, Tighter Flocky with Green Yellow, 1997, which carried a high estimate of $35,000 and features a writhing orgy of deviant sexual practice. Today her subject matter is no less volatile but has concerns over world geopolitics as its influence. The representation is gone, but the frantic mark making remains, and in the wake of praise for her April exhibition at 303 Gallery in New York, the artist’s virtuosity in creating an expressive and engrossing compositional plane is only growing.
Yeesookyung | b. 1963 | South Korea
The 51-year-old Yeesookyung rummages through piles of discarded pottery in the villages peppered across South Korea for cast-offs of traditionally styled ceramics. She then joins fragments together, lining the seams with 24-karat gold leaf, to create globular, anthropomorphic objects that radiate the fragility of eggshells. She refers to these works, which she started making in 2001 and continues to create today, as “Translated Vases,” the larger versions of which, reaching some five feet high, cost upwards of $100,000. “Whether in sculpture, painting, or performance, Yeesookyung is able to create something new, emerging from the destruction of preexisting cultures or systems,” says Jeesun Park, assistant director of Kukje Gallery, which represents the artist on her home turf of Seoul, along with Paris- and Brussels-based Almine Rech Gallery. Yeesookyung’s cinnabar drawings follow the same vein: Using pigment, she sketches fantasyscapes populated with mythical Korean creatures and Western storybook characters like Snow White. Institutionally, Yeesookyung’s visibility is on the rise. She recently entered the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the M+ Museum in Hong Kong, and the survey “When I Become You,” opens next year at the Daegu Art Museum, Korea, before moving on to moca Taipei.
Yin Xiuzhen | b. 1963 | China
Influenced by the steep economic growth of post-Mao China, Yin creates vibrant vignettes of hypermodernization that reference the losers left behind in the race for cultural progress. In her series “Portable Cities,” 2001–present, she has constructed small-scale models of major metropolises from discarded fabric—the Golden Gate Bridge made from old red yarn, the Shanghai skyline rendered in dirty T-shirts—inside suitcases. “Yin creates work from the detritus of urban living to relate personal narratives with larger commentaries on China’s march to civilization and its excesses,” explains Leng Lin, president of Pace Beijing, which represents the artist along with Beijing Commune and Chambers Fine Art. Aside from being included in international collections, from the Mori Art Museum in Japan to the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, the artist is developing a secondary-market presence. Although she has not broken the $100,000 barrier like her contemporary (and husband) Song Dong, her photographic works—mostly documentations of her performance pieces—are gaining traction. Especially popular are her chromogenic prints of manipulated shoes, which she uses to represent memory and the passage of time. At Sotheby’s Hong Kong this past April, Shoes, 1998, sold for HKD 137,500 ($17,700), more than doubling its HKD 60,000 ($7,700) high estimate. The photograph showed 10 pairs of traditional Chinese shoes, the insoles of which had been replaced with images of the artist at different ages.
Louise Bourgeois | 1911–2010 | France
Considered the doyenne of confessional art, the French-born American artist drew inspiration from her privileged yet tormented childhood, channeling hurt wrought by a philandering father into sexually charged abstract works and the protective nature of her mother into the arachnid forms that would become a hallmark of her oeuvre. When Bourgeois’s 22-foot-high bronze Spider, 1996, cast in an edition of six, brought an artist-record $10.7 million at Christie’s New York in November 2011, it achieved the highest auction price for a work by a female artist, a benchmark that stood until February 2013. Under the aegis of Cheim & Read, which represents her estate, Bourgeois’s legacy has been secured. According to John Cheim, the most sought-after works are her monolithic “Personage” sculptures of the 1940s and ’50s and her spider sculptures, including the enormous Maman, 1999, of which six were made in bronze, steel, and marble. The latter have found favor among institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Guggenheim Bilbao, Tate Modern in London, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.
Artemisia Gentileschi | 1593–1656 | Italy
Celebrity and family connections heightened the visibility of Gentileschi, the best-known female painter of the Baroque age. Her accomplished painter father, Orazio Gentileschi, steeped her in the life of an artist by hiring a tutor to train her. The arrangement resulted in Artemisia’s rape, which was followed by a seven-month trial. Although she married soon after, the crime, along with the patronage of the Medici family and the English court of Charles I, made her a constant source of gossip. “There is an emotional, speculative quality to the work that people love,” says George Wachter, worldwide cochair of Old Master paintings at Sotheby’s. But “pieces by Artemisia don’t come up every day.” Her works hovered in the mid six-figure range until Mary Magdalene, circa 1620, sold at Sotheby’s Paris this past June, soaring past its €300,000 ($407,352) high estimate, to sell for €865,500 ($1,178,500). According to Wachter, “For good ones, people have started to take note.”
Yayoi Kusama | b. 1929 | Japan
Few artists have endured the highs and lows Kusama has, initially lauded as an avant-gardist upon her 1957 arrival in New York, hailed as an innovator of the Pop movement, but later doubted as a proponent of mere decoration. Perhaps it was her fervent faith in the values of peace and loving kindness that fostered the late 20th-century sneers, but the adulation her work garners in the current millennium—with visitors waiting eight hours to enter one of her “Infinity Rooms” at David Zwirner gallery last November—has brought her a kind of crossover stardom rarely seen for artists who do not veer into commercial forms. “The strength of the support for her work comes from a broad base of global collectors who are both seasoned and new,” says Zwirner senior partner Hanna Schouwink. “The work is accessible as well as profound, and its lack of cynicism carries Kusama’s message beyond the confines of the art world. There were visitors to the last show who had never been in a gallery before.” The artist’s auction high of $3.3 million was earned in 2010 at Christie’s New York for No. G.A. White, a canvas from 1960. Today, paintings are priced between $400,000 and $700,000, sculptures in the $350,000 to $1 million range, and an “Infinity Room” will cost $1 million.
Barbara Hepworth | 1903–1975 | United Kingdom
When Hepworth’s bronze Figure for Landscape, 1959–60, one of an edition of seven, achieved £4,170,500 ($7.1 million) at Christie’s this past June, more than doubling its high estimate, it set a record for the modernist British sculptor. A cornerstone of the St. Ives School, Hepworth is known for her smooth, perforated, and tactile forms executed in wood, stone, and bronze, which have been likened in style to those of countryman Henry Moore, whose works have commanded four times hers on the block. Over a career that spanned five decades, Hepworth produced some 600 works, many of them meant for outdoor presentation. Drawing inspiration from the natural environment and the physical sensation of moving through it, she once wrote, “I, the sculptor, am the landscape. I am the form and I am the hollow, the thrust, and the contour.” Says André Zlattinger, senior director and head of 20th-century British art and Scottish art for Christie’s London, “The general consensus is that her market is heating up,” adding that several important works will come on the block at the house in November. ?Hepworth, who won the Grand Prix at the 1959 São Paulo Bienal, was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1965. “Barbara Hepworth: Within the Landscape” is on view at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Cumbria, U.K., until September 28.
Agnes Martin | 1912–2004 | Canada
Martin’s reputation has ascended not merely to stardom but to that of shaman. “Aesthetically, she was a generation ahead of herself,” says Arne Glimcher of Pace, which took her on in 1974 and now represents her estate. “It’s subtle painting that doesn’t have the lush brushwork that easily captures collectors. Time is as much an ingredient for understanding Martin’s work as pigment.” Scarce supply has not had its usual effect on the market: Martin’s auction high, $6.5 million, earned for The Beach, 1964, at Sotheby’s nearly a year ago, seems downright affordable compared with the $8.6 million hammered in for a Robert Ryman Minimalist white canvas at Sotheby’s in 2006. Private sales, however, are said to reach nearly triple the price—as they should for an artist characterized by Glimcher as “one who broke the mold.”
Joan Mitchell | 1925–1992 | United States
A second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Mitchell became the highest-achieving female artist at auction when her 8-foot-tall oil-on-canvas Untitled, 1960, sold for $11.9 million (est. $6–$9 million) at Christie’s New York this past May. Four of her paintings have topped $7 million since 2011. Yet the American-born Francophile’s boldly stroked canvases—inthe collections of MoMA and the Whitney in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate in London—remain relatively undervalued when compared with those of her peers Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock. The most highly sought-after work, says John Cheim of New York’s Cheim & Read gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, are her paintings from the 1950s, a seminal time in the Ab-Ex movement. When the Fondation Louis Vuitton opens its doors in Paris in October, it will house a gallery featuring Mitchell’s late canvases, including Beauvais, 1986, an oil-on-canvas diptych.
Georgia O’Keeffe | 1887–1986 | United States
With her lush close-ups of flowers immortalized on calendars and coffee mugs, O’Keeffe hardly fits the definition of an under-recognized artist—except, surprisingly, in the auction market, where the rising tide has failed to lift her prices even as scholarship on her work mounts. “In terms of importance, she’s right up there with Edward Hopper,” says Elizabeth Sterling, head of American art at Christie’s New York. “She was the most abstract and forward-thinking artist in the Stieglitz circle.” But O’Keeffe’s auction record, hammered at $5.6 million for Calla Lilies with Red Anemone, 1928, at Christie’s in 2001, pales in comparison with the $40,485,000 garnered by Hopper last year. Private sales can be higher, anywhere from $5 million to $15 million. “Historically the 1920s have brought the premium, but personally I prefer some of the 1940s works, where her style is becoming a bit looser and you can see some correlations to postwar art,” says Sterling. O’Keeffe was prolific, producing some 900 canvases and hundreds of works on paper, and there are still museum-quality works in circulation. Notes Sterling, “There’s a lot of opportunity left. She’s one of the few prewar American artists in whom we see interest from Europe and from Asia, and I predict her market will grow over time.”
A version of this article appears in the September 2014 issue of Art+Auction magazine.
image: (clockwise) Chantal Akerman’s “Une Voix dans le Désert,” 2002 (A Voice in the Desert), Elaine Sturtevant’s “Untitled (Batman scale model),” 1997, Yin Xiuzhen’s “Nowhere to Land, 2012, Nancy Graves’s “Arachn,” 1980, Birgit Jürgenssen’s “I Want Out of Here!,”1976/2006 and Yeesookyung’s “Thousand,” 2013(Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris/Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac/ © Birgit Jürgenssen Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London and Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna © Yin Xiuzhen/ Pace Beijing/ © Nancy Graves Foundation, Inc / VAGA/© Yeesookyung)