Art Market

10 Breakthrough Artists at Auction in 2022

Casey Lesser
Dec 15, 2022 4:19PM

It was undoubtedly a banner year for the ultra-contemporary market. Boosted by an increasing number of sales that cater to this subset—young and emerging artists who have a growing collector base on the primary market—the list of splashy auction debuts and meteoric ascents we witnessed in 2022 is not a short one.

The artists and artworks featured here created some of the most buzzed-about moments during marquee auction weeks this year. In most cases, these artists were already known quantities, with stellar gallery representation, ever-growing exhibition histories, ample museum acquisitions, and waitlists of collectors vying for their work. Yet these auction breakthroughs were still milestone moments, marking new levels of market interest and higher price brackets.

While ample activity surrounded such early-career artists in the spring and early summer sales, a lull in the late summer and early fall suggested that an overzealous secondary market had subsided. Yet another surge came during October’s Frieze Week sales, as well as the Hong Kong auctions in late November and early December, particularly surrounding those artists with proven career longevity. While the art world’s thirst for newness is seemingly unquenchable, that obsession is prolonged by the fact that these early-career artists’ works have become next to impossible to collect. (Prices include fees.)

This article is part of The Art Market Recap 2022—a look at the major sales, trends, and artists that made an impact this year. Download the full report here.

Anna Weyant, Falling Woman, 2020

$1,623,000 (Estimate: $150,000–$200,000)

Sotheby’s, May 2022

Previous record (before 2022): $37,800 (Nov. 2021)

Anna Weyant, Falling Woman, 2020. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Though Anna Weyant was gaining renown in the art world before 2022, this was undoubtedly her breakthrough year. Following her 2019 debut at 56 Henry, and 2021 solo shows at Winter Street Gallery and Blum & Poe, the artist, now in her late twenties, entered 2022 as part of the latter gallery’s roster.

In April, her first painting went to auction: Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold Josephine (2020), a stark, pristine still life with white roses in a vase that gives off an eerie reflection, for an eye-opening $513,920. Within a matter of days in May, Weyant decamped to Gagosian and her darkly captivating figurative paintings became the talk of the New York auctions.

First to the block was the stunningly sad girl of Summertime (2020), which sold for a whopping $1.5 million at Christie’s; that record only stood for some nine days before it was surpassed by the sale of Falling Woman (2020) for $1.6 million. All in all, 15 of Weyant’s paintings sold at auction in 2022, ranging in prices from $150,000 to $1.6 million. Recently in November, another $1.5 million sale was notched for the more whimsical Loose Screw (2020).

Two weeks prior, Weyant opened her first solo show with Gagosian—a triumphant debut with the mega-gallery, replete with large, lush canvases dedicated to her latest muses, including Sophia Cohen and Venus Williams, and a roomful of painstaking drawings that show off the artist’s technical prowess. Indeed, while Weyant’s market has been astounding, it’s matched by her exceptional talent.

Lucy Bull, 8:50, 2020

$1,450,001 (Estimate: $127,394–$191,091)

Phillips, June 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Lucy Bull, 8:50, 2020. Courtesy of Phillips.


Lucy Bull had one of the most impressive auction debuts of the year: Special Guest (2019) sold for $907,200 at Sotheby’s in May. But between then and now, eight other works have sold for higher prices, peaking in June when 8:50 (2020) sold for $1.45 million.

Bull’s works appear abstract, though the artist considers herself a representational painter and once said that her pieces “function like Rorschachs.” Her rise is in parallel with a wide range of emerging women artists working in abstraction whose works are increasingly sought after, including Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Lauren Quin, Jadé Fadojutimi, and Francesca Mollett.

Now in her early thirties, Bull is represented by David Kordansky Gallery, which hosted its second solo show with the artist in New York this fall. Bull’s career momentum certainly picked up after her debut show with the gallery in Los Angeles in spring 2021, and a buzzed-about solo booth at Frieze London that fall.

Rachel Jones, Spliced Structure (7), 2019

$1,202,702 (Estimate: $52,823–$79,234)

Bonhams, Mar. 2022

Previous record (before 2022): $19,223 (Mar. 2021)

Rachel Jones, Spliced Structure (7), 2019. Courtesy of Bonhams.

In March, Rachel Jones’s A Slow Teething (2020) left its estimates in the dust when it sold for $823,343 at Sotheby’s. Just three weeks later, Spliced Structure (7) (2019) swiftly surpassed that result at Bonhams, breaking the million-dollar mark and setting the promising artist’s current auction record. Both works are prime examples of Jones’s unforgettably raw and vibrant pastel and oil stick renderings of mouths baring large teeth. In contrast, a year prior, Jones’s auction debut saw the 2021 work A Sliced Tooth sell for $19,223.

The March 2022 results coincided with the opening of Jones’s solo institutional debut—“say cheeeeese” at Chisenhale Gallery—and speak to her steadily building career momentum over the past few years. Jones received her MA from the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 2019. That same year, she took part in the prestigious residency of the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Her work caught the eye of esteemed curators Julia Peyton-Jones and Zoé Whitley, the latter of whom is now director at Chisenhale. Peyton-Jones included the artist in a 2020 group show at Thaddaeus Ropac, which led to her representation with the gallery, and a solo show the following year.

Jones is one of the most promising British artists working today; her works have been acquired by esteemed institutions worldwide, including the Long Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Tate, the Hammer Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among several others.

Louise Bonnet, Faucethead, 2020

$738,393 (Estimate: $76,438–$127,397)

Sotheby’s, Oct. 2022

Previous record (before 2022): $81,900 (Mar. 2021)

Louise Bonnet, Faucethead, 2020. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

In Cecilia Alemani’s “The Milk of Dreams” exhibition at the 59th Venice Biennale this year, one massive room in the Arsenale gave way to Louise Bonnet’s show-stopping Pisser Triptych (2021–22), a luminous work with riffs on religious iconography, save for its subject matter: hulking bodies peeing. That quick jab at the seriousness of the art world and art history is at the heart of Bonnet’s work, and it’s become increasingly welcome beyond just institutional spaces.

Bonnet’s career momentum, buoyed by the Venice presentation, came to head this April when The Ice Skater (2015) sold at Sotheby’s for $722,700. That record was broken this past October when Faucethead (2020) sold for $738,393 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. No stranger to the art world, Bonnet has been having solo shows with tastemaking galleries like Half Gallery, Nino Mier Gallery, and Galerie Max Hetzler since 2016. The latest addition, Gagosian, had solo shows with the artist in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Raghav Babbar, Off Duty, 2020

$646,128 (Estimate: $19,200–$32,100)

Phillips, Dec. 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Raghav Babbar, Off Duty, 2020. Courtesy of Phillips.

In contrast to many of the artists on this list, Raghav Babbar seems to have come out of thin air. His 2020 painting Off Duty, portraying a stern-looking man in a striped shirt glaring across a sparse canvas, held the final slot in Phillips’s Hong Kong evening sale on December 1st. The work sold for just over HK$5 million (US$645,751), an astounding result given the artist’s relative newness to the market, and it’s the third time that Babbar’s work has far exceeded expectations at auction this year.

The artist made his auction debut in August when Memory is a permanent luxury (2020) sold for SG$441,000 (US$316,560), 11 times its low estimate, at Sotheby’s first live sale in Singapore. Then, in October, at Phillips in London, Surinder (2020) sold for £403,200 ($448,588). Babbar, who was born in India and raised in Singapore, is in his mid-twenties and an MFA student at the Royal College of Art in London. To date, he’s had a solo show, “A Visual Journey,” with Waterhouse & Dodd, and was included in a group show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore.

Caroline Walker, Indoor Outdoor, 2015

$598,081 (Estimate: $67,810–$90,413)

Sotheby’s, Oct. 2022

Previous record (before 2022): $111,678 (Oct. 2021)

Caroline Walker, Indoor Outdoor, 2015. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Caroline Walker’s auction record was broken twice in one day during London’s Frieze Week auctions: Night Scenes (2017) sold at Phillips for £516,600 ($577,120), then Indoor Outdoor (2015) sold at Sotheby’s for £529,200 ($598,081). Previously, her record had been set by Bedding, Room 44 (2018), which sold for £428,400 ($520,947) in July at Christie’s.

The market for Walker’s tender portrayals of anonymous women in detailed home and work environments has seen an impressive surge in activity this year. Bidders avidly vied for the artist’s paintings and works on paper throughout 2022, with nearly 30 works selling at auction this year, compared to eight in 2021.

While the two most expensive works were both depictions of night scenes, all of the top auction results were typical of the artist’s explorations of the boundary between public and private space, with several works showing subjects portrayed through windows.

This past November, Walker opened a solo show, titled “Women Observed” at K11 Shanghai. She is represented by GRIMM, Ingleby Gallery, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, and her works have entered major collections, including the High Museum of Art, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Rachofsky Collection, the U.K. Government Art Collection, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Lauren Quin, Airsickness, 2021

$588,765 (Estimate: $40,052–$66,753)

Phillips, Mar. 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Lauren Quin, Airsickness, 2021. Courtesy of Phillips.

In March, Lauren Quin’s Airsickness (2021), with its electric mix of gestural and vaguely bodily forms, made for a dazzling auction debut at Phillips, swiftly selling for more than 14 times its low estimate. Two months later, Blum & Poe announced its representation of the Los Angeles– and San Francisco–based artist to coincide with her first solo exhibition at the L.A. gallery. Quin, who received her MFA at Yale in 2019 and is also represented by Micki Meng (formerly Friends Indeed Gallery), has been garnering the attention of institutions and collectors alike through her fresh, intriguingly strange approach to abstraction.

While a dozen more of Quin’s works went to auction this year, none have surpassed Airsickness’s success, though that shouldn’t cast doubt on Quin’s future momentum. In September, she had a solo show at Shanghai’s tastemaking art space Pond Society, and the list of institutions that have acquired Quin’s work recently is ever-growing, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the High Museum of Art, ICA Miami, the Long Museum, and Pérez Art Museum Miami, among others.

Julien Nguyen, Kye, Semper Solus, 2017

$512,641 (Estimate: $45,206–$67,810)

Sotheby’s, Oct. 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Julien Nguyen, Kye, Semper Solus, 2017. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

During October’s Frieze Week sales, Julien Nguyen’s Kye, Semper Solus (2017) kicked off Sotheby’s “The Now” evening auction with a bidding war. Racking up 14 bids in total, the work set the artist’s auction record, though it wasn’t the only impressive auction result for Nguyen’s work this year. In December, another 2017 work, Faust II, sold at Phillips in Hong Kong for HK$3.5 million (US$453,494); and in November, Noli me tangere, Caesaris sum (2018) sold for $441,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.

The Los Angeles–based artist, who is represented by Matthew Marks Gallery, has become known in the art and fashion worlds alike due to his collaborations with Berlin-based clothing brand Ottolinger. Yet Nguyen’s fresh combinations of science fiction, Italian Renaissance painting, and video game aesthetics have earned him serious art world recognition, too, including his inclusion in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, as well as institutional shows at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Swiss Institute, and the Drawing Center.

Justin Caguiat, Doll 3 Eros, 2020

$504,000 (Estimate: $380,000–$450,000)

Phillips, May 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Justin Caguiat, Doll 3 Eros, 2020. Courtesy of Phillips.

Justin Caguiat’s Doll 3 Eros (2020) is the only work to date by the artist that has gone to auction, and it undoubtedly made an impression. Notably, the estimate for Caguiat’s work was much higher—and clearly, much more realistic—than the benchmarks for the other record-setting works on this list. Caguiat’s name has been on the tongues of advisors and collectors for the past couple of years, and his reputation has been growing internationally. In 2021, he had a solo show at Taka Ishii Gallery and a standout moment at Frieze London with Modern Art.

Yet 2022 marked his breakout year in the U.S. art world. The year kicked off with a solo exhibition at The Warehouse, the esteemed Dallas space founded by collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky and the late Vernon Faulconer. And this September saw the opening of his first solo show with Greene Naftali, which started representing Caguiat last fall. The artist’s dynamic paintings deserve the hype: Done in a gauzy, tantalizing style, Caguiat’s work dips in and out of abstraction and figuration, resulting in dreamlike tableaus that feel rich with indiscernible symbolism.

Anna Park, Is it Worth It?, 2020

$483,943 (Estimate: $38,554–$64,257)

Christie’s, Nov. 2022

Auction debut in 2022

Anna Park, Is it Worth It?, 2020. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited.

In June, Anna Park’s I to I (2019), a charcoal and graphite drawing of two debaucherous women, done in the artist’s early, energetic drawing style, sold for HK$2.3 million (US$288,930) at Phillips in Hong Kong. Three more works sold in the months that followed, but that record remained intact until Christie’s late November Hong Kong sale, when Is it Worth It? (2020) sold for $483,943.

Though it was a breakthrough year for Park’s work at auction, the rising artist had a lot more going on in 2022. In addition to her first solo museum show, at the SCAD Museum of Art and her second solo show at Blum & Poe, Park was featured in an array of group exhibitions at esteemed galleries and institutions, including the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, ICA Miami, Jeffrey Deitch, and LACMA.

Arguably one of the better known artists on this list, Park is also among the youngest. And while young artists who gain such success so early in their career might feel the pressure to continue to churn out more of the same, highly sought-after work, Park, it seems, does not. Rather than continue along the path of her feverish, whirlwind drawings that channel the chaos of the present, her latest show at Blum & Poe debuted a new body of work: clean, crisp compositions redolent of advertisements and film stills that portray an alter ego in various voyeuristic scenarios. This bold new direction bodes well for the artist’s longevity, whether or not the current market likes it.

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.