Art Market

10 Must-See Lots on Artsy This Week

Artsy Editorial
Nov 3, 2022 4:03PM

The new sale “Artsy Auction: Post-War and Contemporary Art” features a wide range of works by acclaimed contemporary talents and blue-chip artists, including Alice Neel, Kiki Smith, Robert Nava, and Ugo Rondinone. The auction is open now through November 17th at 12 p.m. EST, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Vote Save America’s Immediate Abortion Access Fund.

The opening four lots are a capsule of works by Chloe Wise, Alec Egan, Jonny Niesche, and Shona McAndrew that are being offered directly from the artists. With an emphasis on social activism, each artist chose an organization to support with the proceeds from the sale.

Here, we share insights on 10 of the auction’s standout lots.

Chloe Wise, Forget About Hymn, 2022

Chloe Wise’s impressive large-scale oil-on-linen painting Forget About Hymn (2022) is a portrait of the artist’s friend, musician Okay Kaya. The delicate lines of Wise’s brushstrokes are contrasted with the sharp gaze her subject directs to the viewer. Wise wrote to Artsy that Okay Kaya’s music “embodies the shared experience of chaos tempered with tenderness that we can all relate to.”

Wise has chosen for proceeds from the sale to benefit Evergreen Action Collaborative. On the urgency of the auction cause, Wise wrote, “This moment calls for a recognition of duality, of two things being true at once. In this work, her expression is both melancholy yet secure. The charity I chose also occupies a space I consider similar. While exhausted and disappointed in the political system, this organization recognizes that accomplishing sustainable policy must be done using political action.”

The Montreal-born, New York–based painter is renowned for deftly capturing the nuanced and often playful facial expressions of her portrait sitters. Wise often crops her portraits to feature the subject from the torso up, and as is the case in Forget About Hymn, their gazes meet the audience at eye level. This allows us to get lost into the details of their contorted faces and the emotions behind them.

The young artist already has an active secondary market, with sales at the 2022 New York spring auctions exceeding their estimates. Her auction record was set this past May when Above all things, be glad, and young, and relatively irreplaceable (2016) sold at Sotheby’s for $144,900, more than twice its low estimate of $60,000.

Shona McAndrew, Victoria, 2022


Shona McAndrew’s luscious paintings capture the tenderness and intimacy of desire. In Victoria (2022), a woman leans against a reclining ottoman, bare chested and bathed in moonlight. The deep blue and muted pink palette lends a striking softness to the painting. The painting portrays McAndrew’s friend, fellow artist Victoria Nunley, whom she has known since her undergraduate years. “As with all women I paint, Victoria is confident in who she is as a woman. In large part, this confidence comes from the fact that she has spent her life defining ‘womanhood’ on her own terms,” McAndrew wrote. The work is being sold to benefit The National Network of Abortion Funds.

The Paris-born, Philadelphia-based artist is known for her frank and intimate depictions of women’s bodies across sculpture and painting, including portraits of herself. McAndrew’s primary market has been extremely active since her breakout solo presentation at Spring/Break Art Show in 2019.

Victoria is both modern in its color tone as it is historical for its compositional reference to Caravaggio’s painting Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy (1606). “History has rarely been kind to Mary Magdalene, with men frequently controlling her representation in a manner that deprived her of her complex relationship to femininity,” McAndrew wrote. “It felt right to reference her and reinvent her pose with a contemporary woman, especially during a time in America where many women have lost their right to bodily autonomy because of a largely patriarchal religious narrative. For this reason, the charity, The National Network of Abortion Funds, felt most appropriate.”

Alec Egan, Dusk Tulips and Breaking Wave, 2022

Contemporary still lifes have never looked so immediate and beautiful than they do in the hands of Alec Egan. The Los Angeles–born and –based artist draws inspiration from nature filtered through man-made designs. With Egan’s work, the illusion of nature that we concoct daily through trinkets and household items is reimagined anew and rendered poetic on his canvas.

For the auction, Egan’s Dusk Tulips and Breaking Wave (2022) is being sold to benefit St. Joseph Center, inspired by his weekly experiences delivering groceries to lower income families across the Los Angeles and Compton areas. “St. Joseph’s is an organization that has a longstanding relationship with the Venice community specifically, combating homelessness, mental illness, and poverty,” he wrote. “Me and my wife’s families have longstanding roots in Venice, which is where we started our own family, and combating all of these issues is near and dear to us.”

The vivid painting depicts a red and yellow tulip that appears to be growing on the beach as a cascading wave forms in the background against a strikingly pink sky. With primary colors driven to the forefront, Egan allows us to become awash into the unusual, intriguing elements of the composition.

In the past few years, Egan has had a steady stream of solo shows with his two representing galleries: Anat Ebgi in Los Angeles and Charles Moffett in New York.

Jonny Niesche, Schein Blossom (Spring has no border) (Study), 2022

Jonny Niesche creates what he calls “image objects,” based on digital color palettes made in Photoshop, which involve mirrored frames and dye sublimation. These works, which straddle the line between painting and sculpture, recall California Light and Space works from legends like James Turrell and Larry Bell. Niesche’s use of color in Schein Blossom (Spring has no border) (Study) (2022) also calls to mind the works of Mark Rothko and Josef Albers. While tapping into the work of his forebears, Niesche expertly conveys the tension between the digital and physical that governs life in the 21st century.

The Sydney-born and -based Niesche described his work and process to Forbes in 2018: “By [using] the reflective surfaces and glitter, the viewer becomes present in the work. It is this desire-like situation when you are looking through a shop window at something you want, and at some point, you are apprehended by the reflection of yourself within that situation.”

The artist is donating proceeds from his work to the Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program. The organization draws awareness to the underreporting of missing and murdered Indigenious women across Canada and Australia. “After seeing an exposé on the atrocious violence against Indigenous women in Australia and the sad lack of action, and acknowledgement that this is such a huge problem,” Niesche explained, “I jumped at the chance to try and shine more light on this issue.”

Ugo Rondinone, Small Black White Red Mountain, 2019

Ugo Rondinone is a master sculptor known for his playful mountain sculptures. Using what he identifies as the universal quality of stone, the artist crafts works that are both accessible in their appearance as they are philosophical in their narrative. In Small Black White Red Mountain (2019), the material and colors create a symbolic bridge between nature (represented by the rock) and man (represented by the steel). Rondinone simplifies the complex interaction of man’s imprint on the natural world through our human-made materials.

The Swiss-born, New York–based artist is critically acclaimed for his work across media including sculpture, photography, and painting. Rondinone represented Switzerland in 2007 at the 52nd Venice Biennale. In 2018, his auction record was set when the large tree sculpture a day like this.made of nothing and nothing else (2009) sold for $1.1 million at Sotheby’s. In November 2021, his Yellow Green Pink Mountain (2021) sold for $300,000 at Christie’s, and this past March, Silver Black White Green Mountain (2016) sold for £206,500 ($272,696).

Alice Neel, Grade Crossing, ca. 1930s

This painting of a countryside by Alice Neel is one of the true gems of this auction. As more scholars and curators pore over the artist’s career following several lauded retrospectives in the past decade—including “Alice Neel: People Come First” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021—Neel is earning her rightful place as a 20th-century master.

“Grade Crossing New Jersey” is written across the stretcher of the painting and may be a location near her home in Spring Lake, New York. The work was made prior to her move to painting cityscapes in the mid-1930s. This quiet piece reveals Neel’s incredible skill for capturing landscapes and realism, two styles she would drop in favor of the fresh approach to figuration she became known for.

Born in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, Neel spent most of her career as an artist in New York City, where she frequently painted individuals at the margins of society, including socialists, queer and nonbinary individuals, union laborists, and many others. Thus, this painting is a rare departure from her typical oeuvre.

The artist’s secondary market is catching up to her institutional acclaim, with most of her auction records set in the past two years. In May 2021, Neel’s auction record was set at Christie’s when Dr. Finger’s Waiting Room (1966), a still-life painting, sold for just over $3 million, more than tripling its high estimate.

Robert Nava, Untitled, 2011

Robert Nava’s delightfully zany paintings of mythical creatures evoke a sense of both childhood imaginative wonder and hardened adult nostalgia. His hype-generating works have dominated the recent wave of faux naïf painting, blending the aesthetics of street art and childlike drawings.

The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based Nava has consistently caught the attention of collectors, galleries, and institutions. However, over the past two years, since he gained representation with Pace Gallery, the artist’s secondary market has grown significantly. Last month, his auction record was set when Before Minotaur (2019) sold for £639,600 ($714,529); more than half of Nava’s top 10 auction results have been set in 2022.

This 2011 canvas was originally acquired directly from the artist’s MFA thesis exhibition while he was at Yale. The painting, featuring a crocodile eating a human leg, is a rare glimpse at an early form of his current style, where his figuration was still teetering between playfulness and morbidity.

Norman Lewis, Untitled (Rhododendrons), ca. 1948

Norman Lewis was a member of the New York School, the legendary group of Abstract Expressionists that included luminaries such as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning, among others. However, his abstractions were not met with the same critical mainstream acclaim as his peers during his lifetime. Due to this, the artist’s work nearly faded into obscurity at the time of his death at age 70 in 1979.

Over the past 20 years, however, there has been a strong market and institutional shift to recognize the abstractions produced by Black 20th-century artists like Lewis, Sam Gilliam, Frank Bowling, Alma Thomas, and many others. This 21st-century revival has created a pathway for contemporary Black abstract painters to emerge and cite Lewis as a key source of inspiration.

Untitled (Rhododendrons) is a hauntingly beautiful mid-size abstract painting, and an example of one of Lewis’s early experiments with abstraction. The title takes its name from the curled forms found in rhododendron flowers; however, the use of black, gray, and forest green, with a pop of turquoise, leaves the painting with a slightly melancholic mood among the blossoming florals. This is unsurprising, as the artist was known to paint numerous flowers during the winter, as if longing for spring weather.

Kiki Smith, Shadow 1, 2019

Kiki Smith’s vast multidisciplinary career has generated critical acclaim across institutions and the art market. This editioned bronze sculpture, Shadow 1 (2019), was included in her 2019 solo exhibition at Galleria Continua, entitled “Compass.” Works in that exhibition utilized the compass as a way to interrogate navigation across the land and the spiritual or shadow realm. The show was another entry into the artist’s longstanding interests in death, spirituality, and regeneration.

Smith has had a steady presence on the secondary market over the past 15 years, with many of her top auction results happening in the past year. This includes her bronze sculpture Woman on Pyre (2001), which sold for €126,000 ($125, 726) at Sotheby’s this past September; Virgin Mary (1994), which sold for $214,000 at Sotheby’s contemporary day auction in 2021; and Born (2002), which sold for $176,400 at Sotheby’s in 2021.

Doug Aitken, UTOPIA (Altamont Motor Speedway), 2011

Doug Aitken creates work that is inspired by experiences, both personal and public. In particular, the artist draws heavily from pop cultural events that appear to define a generation. This is evident in UTOPIA (Altamont Motor Speedway) (2011). The photographic lightbox sculpture repurposes an image from the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969.

The festival is most known for the intense violence that occurred, which included multiple stabbings and hit-and-runs—a far cry from the peaceful Woodstock Festival that took place just four months prior. Through the juxtaposition of image and text, Aitken draws our attention to the utopian optimism that inspired the “free love” festival that was, sadly, undone by its conclusion.

Across Aitken’s photographs, films, and sculptures, we see this running theme of expectation versus reality as exemplified through real-life events. The California-born, New York–based artist first earned major critical acclaim when he won the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999.

The artist has maintained an active presence at auctions over the past 20 years. At Phillips this past March, Aitken’s photographic lightbox sculpture Jungle Plane (2017) sold for £103,320, which was more than three times its low estimate of £30,000, making it the sixth-highest auction result for the artist.

Artsy Editorial