Art Market

10 Standout Lots Sold in Artsy Auctions in 2022

Ayanna Dozier
Dec 15, 2022 4:24PM

In the three years since the COVID-19 outbreak, the art world has embraced a hybrid way of working that interweaves physical shows, auctions, and art fairs with online platforms that enable discovery, learning, and purchasing. As a result, online auctions have become a key avenue through which both novice and established art collectors can buy sought-after artworks with relative ease.

From post-war and contemporary sales to benefit auctions, Artsy Auctions reached new heights in 2022, enabling collectors to acquire works by leading artists and to support social impact organizations along the way. Prominent names like Salman Toor, Issy Wood, Norman Lewis, Alice Neel, and Eddie Martinez are among the artists whose works were sold in Artsy Auctions over the course of the year.

Here, we share 10 of the standout works and their results. (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.

Inka Essenhigh, Estuary, 2022

Sold for: $84,000

Estimate: $20,000–$30,000

Inka Essenhigh’s Estuary (2022) became one of the artist’s top auction results when it sold for $84,000 (more than four times its low estimate) in the “Impact: Artists in Support of Refugees from Ukraine” sale in April. Organized by Artsy and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the emergency benefit auction provided support for refugees fleeing Ukraine, with a portion of the buyer’s premium going to the nonprofit USA for UNHCR.

Essenhigh is known for her vivid, uncanny landscape paintings that unearth the fantastical side of nature. Her works often render ordinary environments through a dreamlike gaze, lending them an extraordinary emotional depth. While Essenhigh’s early style drew on the work of Salvador Dalí, her more mature paintings like Estuary represent an original, uncanny twist on botanical motifs. Essenhigh’s work can also be found in the collections of ​​major museums including the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Eddie Martinez, Untitled, 2012

Sold for: $350,000

Estimate: $150,000–$200,000


Eddie Martinez is renowned for his energetic, gestural canvases that deftly combine elements of abstraction with representation. At first glance, Untitled (2012) appears to be a feverish mix of quick, brushy lines with daubs of bold color, but closer inspection reveals what could be a head, couched among a series of objects set together like a still life. The work fetched $350,000 in Artsy’s post-war and contemporary sale in March.

Martinez’s current auction record was set by the invigorating canvas High Flying Bird (2014), which sold at a November 2019 evening sale at Christie’s for HK$15.73 million (US$2.02 million). Recent and notable sales include Lost Luggage (2008), which sold for $264,600 at Christie’s in March, and I Feel Alright (2007), a painting of a vase bursting with blooms that sold for $352,800 (more than double its low estimate) at Phillips that same month. Martinez has held solo shows at major galleries and institutions in recent years, including Yuz Museum, the Drawing Center, Blum & Poe, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Perrotin, and Loyal.

Wayne Thiebaud, Palms, 1958

Sold for: $250,000

Estimate: $80,000–$120,000

This Wayne Thiebaud painting of a pair of palm trees against a muted, dusky sky sold for $250,000, more than three times its low estimate, in Artsy’s post-war and contemporary sale in March. The work has a charming backstory: It was acquired directly from the artist by the seller’s mother, who won it in a trade for a dining table, and was included in a 1976 survey of the artist’s work at the Phoenix Museum of Art.

Thiebaud, who died in December 2021, is beloved for his lush paintings of cakes and other sugary delicacies. His wide-ranging oeuvre has been increasingly unearthed in commercial and institutional spaces in recent years. This early, gestural piece was made during a transitional moment for the artist—painted after his move to California following a sabbatical in New York, where he’d befriended the likes of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns.

Palm trees are a subject that Thiebaud would return to throughout his career, including in etchings in the 1960s, ink paintings in the 1970s, and in his “Palm Ridge” series in the 1970s and ’80s. This particular portrayal, with the palms seemingly nestled together on a placid beach, like a couple that’s just witnessed a sunset, is typical of the artist’s ability to make his non-human subjects relatable.

Salman Toor, Humiliated Ancestor #5, 2016

Sold for: $100,000

Estimate: $30,000–$50,000

Salman Toor’s subtle yet deeply sensual paintings explore the tension of queer visibility in Pakistan—where he was born—and abroad. Using color and tone, Toor paints scenes that document the daily existence of queer life informed by his own experiences and those of his friends. Despite the lushness of Toor’s brush, a sinister presence haunts some of the scenes, as the fragile bodies on the canvas are occasionally subjugated to violence. The small-scale painting Humiliated Ancestor #5 (2016) sold for $100,000, over three times its low estimate, in Artsy’s March post-war and contemporary sale.

Toor’s auction results speak to the critical and commercial demand for his work: His painting Four Friends (2019), which was included in the artist’s 2021 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, recently set the artist’s auction record when it sold for $1.6 million at Sotheby’s in November. The Whitney show undoubtedly contributed to Toor’s rising profile, solidifying his presence as a leading contemporary painter who uses form to push the boundaries of figuration and identity.

François Morellet, 2 trames de grillage -4°+4° (# 5mm), 1975

Sold for: $112,500

Estimate: $20,000–$30,000

2 trames de grillage -4°+4° (# 5mm) (1975) is indicative of the late François Morellet’s geometric style. This mixed-media piece sold for $112,500, more than five times its low estimate of $20,000 in Artsy’s post-war and contemporary art sale in June. A portion of the proceeds from the auction supported art history scholarships for students in publicly funded HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The work bears similarities with Morellet’s 1972 piece 2 trames de tirets 0° 90°, which set an auction record for the artist in 2010 when it sold for €432,750 ($589,784).

With a practice spanning sculpture, painting, and light works, Morellet is known for his use of geometry. He was heavily influenced by and a participant of CoBrA, a post-war art movement that rejected the principles of figuration and Surrealism, which dominated pre–World War II art in the West. CoBrA artists found inspiration in spontaneity and non-Western cultural practices and aesthetics.

Chloe Wise, Forget About Hymn, 2022

Sold for: $75,000

Estimate: $35,000–$55,000

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 painting landed in Wise’s top three auction results when it sold for $75,000 at Artsy’s post-war and contemporary sale in November.

With the proceeds of the sale, Wise chose to support climate change organization Evergreen Action Collaborative. On the occasion of the sale, 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.”

In Forget About Hymn, 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.”

The Montreal-born, New York–based painter already has an active secondary market, and sales at the 2022 New York spring auctions mostly exceeded their estimates. Her auction record was set in 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.

Alec Egan, Dusk Tulips and Breaking Wave, 2022

Sold for: $81,250

Estimate: $40,000–$50,000

Born and based in Los Angeles, Alec Egan draws inspiration from nature filtered through man-made designs such as wallpaper, woven textiles, and pottery. On his canvases, the illusion of nature that we concoct daily through trinkets and household items is reimagined and rendered poetic.

Egan’s Dusk Tulips and Breaking Wave (2022) was sold in an Artsy Auction in November to benefit St. Joseph Center, an L.A. organization the artist volunteers with to deliver groceries to lower-income families. “St. Joseph’s is an organization that has a longstanding relationship with the Venice community specifically, combating homelessness, mental illness, and poverty,” he wrote. The painting set Egan’s auction record when it sold for $81,250 at Artsy’s post-war and contemporary sale in November, more than twice its low estimate of $40,000.

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. Over 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.

Suanjaya Kencut, With the Pets - Sheep, 2021

Sold for: $50,000

Estimate: $4,000–$6,000

Suanjaya Kencut’s paintings of stuffed dolls consider human emotions through inanimate objects. This work, both quirky and surreal, is evocative of the playful imagery of artists like Yoshitomo Nara. In Artsy’s street art sale in October, With the Pets - Sheep (2021) became the second-highest auction result for the artist when it sold for $50,000, more than 12 times its low estimate.

Believing that the eye is the window to the soul, Kencut replaces the eyes of the stuffed dolls he paints with buttons. As a result, viewers are left with a blank slate for interpreting the works, which he believes leads to a more emotional experience.

Kencut received his BFA from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta in 2012 and has steadily seen his primary- and secondary-market prices climb over the past three years. Defense (2021), which sold at Sotheby’s “Contemporary Discoveries” auction in August for £47,800 ($58,389), holds the artist’s current record at auction.

Amoako Boafo, Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man), 2018

Sold for: $106,250

Estimate: $25,000–$35,000

Amoako Boafo’s star profile has risen to meteoric heights over the last five years, leading him to become one of the foremost figurative painters working in Black portraiture today.

Known for his distinctive staccato style of brushwork, Boafo’s layered portraits of Black youth add dimensionality into their representation. His Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man) (2018), rendered in this signature style, is from Boafo’s early career. The work sold for $106,250, nearly three times its high estimate of $35,000 at Artsy’s post-war and contemporary sale in September.

All of Boafo’s top auction results have emerged over the past two years; his record was set by Hands Up (2018), which sold for HK$26.7 million (US$3.4 million) at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2021. Another seven-figure price was achieved in a Christie’s auction in February, when Yellow Blanket (2018) sold for £1.2 million ($1.7 million).

Robert Nava, Untitled, 2011

Sold for: $172,500

Estimate: $150,000–$200,000

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.

This 2011 canvas was originally acquired from the artist’s MFA thesis exhibition 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. The painting added to Nava’s consistent six-figure prices at auctions when it sold for $172,500 at Artsy’s November post-war and contemporary sale.

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

Ayanna Dozier
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.