Art Market

8 Artists Who Had Breakout Moments at October Auctions

Colin Gleadell
Oct 27, 2021 9:29PM

Jadé Fadojutimi, A Muddled Mind Thats Never Confined, 2021. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

This year’s Frieze Week auctions at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s in London ran up £194.3 million ($268.2 million) in sales, which was above the presale estimate, but down 16.7% on 2019. By the end, no one was in any doubt that the liveliest bidding was for works by relatively new painters to auction who had previously experienced sold-out gallery shows. It is no accident that the majority of the artists discussed below had works on offer from Phillips, where more attention is paid to this kind of intel than in the other rooms, and where buyers interested in new-to-market artists’ works are more likely to go.

Allison Zuckerman, Palace Dweller, 2017. Courtesy of Phillips.


Phillips staged the first auction of the week with an impressive £9.5 million ($12.9 million) day sale. Setting the pace for the week was the second lot: the six-by-seven-foot painting Palace Dweller (2017) by 31-year-old Allison Zuckerman, who typically explores female subjects in art history with the aid of a little comic, Disney-esque digital collage.

After Zuckerman earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, she eventually hooked up with Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York, who introduced collectors Don and Mera Rubell to her work. Straight off, they bought 22 works from her studio. Then in 2017, they picked her as their artist in residence and bought all 10 of her works from the residency. As the art world knows, there is no better imprimatur for a young artist’s work than the Rubell seal of approval. In a 2017 review of her work at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, the references to female subjects by the Old Masters with a dash of Picasso-like distortion thrown in led Max Lakin of Cultured to describe it as “art history put through a Vitamix.”

Zuckerman’s first auction sale was not until March 2021 and hit $93,240 over a $15,000 high estimate at Phillips in New York. Since then, another 10 of her works have gone under the hammer, two of them in Hong Kong. By June, her record of $252,000 was set over a $40,000 high estimate at Phillips again, for The First Royal Portrait (2018). Palace Dweller was her first work to be auctioned in London.

Slightly larger than The First Royal Portrait and estimated slightly higher at £30,000 to £50,000 ($41,000–$68,000), bids for Palace Dweller came flying in from Texas, Florida, and Hong Kong before the painting sold to a client on the phone with Phillips’s Cologne representative, Alice Trier, for £138,600 ($188,000). The price was not a record, but confirmed levels of demand that have been apparent only this year.

Explore more works by Allison Zuckerman.

Isshaq Ismail, Nkabom 1, 2019. Courtesy of Phillips.

Isshaq Ismail, Epoch I, 2018. Photo © Christie’s Images Limited 2021. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Also at Phillips’s day sale was one of the new crop of artists from Ghana (following in the footsteps of Amoako Boafo and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe) taking the market by storm. The first appearance at auction for a work by 32-year-old Isshaq Ismail was in August 2020 in an online-only auction at Christie’s called “Say it Loud” and curated by gallerist Destinee Ross-Sutton, who had discovered his work on Instagram. There, his work Nonchalant 2 (Nana Kwesi Wiafe) (2020) sold for $110,000 against a $15,000 high estimate.

Probably as a result of this—and the 100% sale rate of his work in Ross-Sutton’s exhibition “Black Voices,” which opened in December 2020—three examples appeared in London neatly spread, one apiece, at Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s. They were topped by the first offering, at Phillips’s day sale: the five-foot-tall Nkabom 1 (2019), featuring two masklike heads with heart-shaped mouths in brilliant primary colors, which came in with a £10,000 to £15,000 presale estimate ($13,000–$20,000). Initially bought from the artist by a private collection in Los Angeles and sold on to the auction consignor, competition for the work between online bidders from London and Florida drove the price up to £138,600 ($189,000), setting the pace for the next two. At Sotheby’s online-only day sale, the smaller Blue Face III (2019) sold for £88,200 ($120,000) over an £8,000 ($11,000) high estimate. Meanwhile, at Christie’s “First Open” sale the following week, another example by Ismail, Epoch I (2018), estimated at £10,000 to £15,000 ($13,000–$20,000), sold for £118,750 ($163,000)—a slightly reduced multiple of the estimate, said Ross-Sutton, because it was an earlier work, before he had found his current style. The artist has described his later style as comprising “grotesque images and surfaces…with flat tone backgrounds.”

Explore more works by Isshaq Ismail.

Cinga Samson, Lift Off, 2017. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Another rising star from the African continent is Cinga Samson, a figurative South African artist who has traditionally shown with Blank Projects in Cape Town, with shows selling out to an international clientele. But last year, Samson branched out to show with Perrotin in New York and more recently signed up exclusively with White Cube in May—all of which points to a rapidly expanding market.

Samson is staging a show at collector Glenn Fuhrman’s prestigious FLAG Art Foundation that emphasizes the conceptual underpinning of his work. Most of these new works have been placed with museums or public-facing institutions, said a spokesperson from White Cube, and no more new work will be shown until the gallery has an exhibition in 2023. Since Samson’s shows have been selling out, his work has inevitably been traded up at auction this year. During Frieze Week, a peak was reached at Sotheby’s with Lift Off (2017), a portrait placed in its catalogue essay somewhere between the Renaissance, Paul Gauguin, Henri Rousseau, and Kerry James Marshall. Originally sold by Blank Projects for around $15,000, Lift Off was chased well over its £70,000 ($95,000) high estimate by London secondary-market dealer Hugh Gibson, but was taken way higher by a phone bidder who paid a record £321,200 ($439,000) for a work by Samson.

Explore more works by Cinga Samson.

Flora Yukhnovich, I’ll Have What She’s Having, 2020. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s main sale was dominated by the £18.5 million ($25.3 million) shredded Banksy. But more phenomenal than Banksy is 31-year-old London-based painter Flora Yukhnovich, whose obsession with the Rococo art of Watteau and Boucher (much favored by the Russians) informs her more liberal brushwork. Hardly anything by Yukhnovich has sold at auction before, but demand has exploded since she signed up with Victoria Miro this year.

At Sotheby’s, her seven-foot-plus I’ll Have What She’s Having (2020)—a contemporary fête galante with putti and skirts flying in all directions—had been acquired just before she signed with Victoria Miro from Ben Tufnell’s London gallery Parafin for a price between £25,000 and $30,000 (about $32,000–$39,000). In spite of a groundbreaking $1 million price achieved by Phillips for a Yukhnovich canvas in the summer, it was estimated at £60,000 to £80,000 ($81,000–$109,000)—“roughly in line with the primary market,” according to Hugo Cobb, Sotheby’s head of sale—and was met with a barrage of bids from Asia, the U.S., and in the room from the likes of former Sotheby’s chairman of Europe and independent art advisor Melanie Clore. But her spirited bidding was overwhelmed as the price rose to £2.2 million ($3 million). Only two paintings by Watteau have made that much, and none by Boucher.

Explore more works by Flora Yukhnovich.

Ewa Juszkiewicz, Grove, 2014. Photo © Christie’s Images Limited 2021. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Ewa Juszkiewicz, Maria (After Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck), 2013. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Another artist making an impression was the 37-year-old Polish-born Ewa Juszkiewicz, who also responds to art historical style—this time, classic 17th-century Dutch portraiture. As she said in an interview with ARTnews: “The history of art is an infinite source of inspiration.” Last year, she signed up with Gagosian and has had solo shows with Almine Rech in London and Paris over the past year and a half, selling out both times, Cobb said. At Sotheby’s, her portrait Maria (After Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck) (2013) was submitted by a collector who bought it in Poland the year it was painted. The work relates to a portrait in the Rijksmuseum by Verspronck, but Juszkiewicz covers the sitter’s head in a baroque manner with strangely folded cloth, like an elaborate mask.

Juszkiewcz first appeared at auction in March of this year in Poland and then shortly thereafter in London, where prices hit the £100,000 mark. Maria (After Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck) carried her highest low estimate yet at £30,000 ($40,000), but that was easily overtaken by 17 bidders from the U.S., Poland, Europe, and Asia before the painting sold to an online bidder from Asia for £352,800 ($480,000). The price was, however, only briefly a record. At Christie’s, the next day, the smaller Grove (2014)—in which a woman’s head is almost entirely covered by climbing plants and weeds, and which appeared to come originally from the same Polish collection—soared over a £25,000 ($34,000) low estimate to sell for £437,500 ($598,000).

Explore more works by Ewa Juszkiewicz.

Hurvin Anderson, Audition, 1998. Photo © Christie’s Images Limited 2021. Courtesy of Christie’s.

The standout result at Christie’s evening sale was not for a new work, but for a large, rediscovered canvas of an indoor public swimming pool, Audition (1998), by Hurvin Anderson, a British-born artist with Jamaican roots who had been pigeonholed since art school as the heir to Peter Doig. Anderson appeared on the auction map in 2009, when Charles Saatchi, Larry Gagosian, and Peter Simon (the owner of British retailer Monsoon Accessorize) slugged it out for a beach scene painting at auction that quadrupled estimates at nearly £100,000. By 2014, Saatchi was selling Anderson’s work at auction for prices between £1 million and £2 million each. But since then, it’s been a quiet, steady progress—barely one major painting a year at auction, reaching £2.6 million ($3.4 million) in 2017—until now.

Estimated at £1 million to £1.5 million ($1.3 million–$2 million), Audition saw strong dealer and advisory bidding from the Brits Hugh Gibson, Susannah Pollen, and Nick MacLean (the latter the underbidder on behalf of an American collection). It finally sold to another American collector on the phone for a new record, £7.4 million ($10 million). Significantly, there were no bidders from Asia competing, which may partly rule out a speculative element to the bidding; a significant share of speculative buyers at recent sales have been bidding from Asia.

Explore more works by Hurvin Anderson.

Jadé Fadojutimi, The Barefooted Scurry Home, 2017. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Among the young Black artists currently holding the market in thrall is 28-year-old British abstract painter Jadé Fadojutimi, whose paintings were selling for around £20,000 ($26,000) at PEER in 2019. Her auction record was broken three times during Frieze Week. Prior to that, her two highest prices, not yet breaching the $1 million mark, were set in Hong Kong. One by one, London auctioneers repeated the now-familiar mantra that Fadojutimi is the youngest artist in the Tate collection, and one by one they presided over massive bidding competitions.

At Sotheby’s main evening sale, the large abstract canvas The Barefooted Scurry Home (2017) more than tripled the high estimate to sell for £825,700 ($1.1 million). At the following afternoon’s Sotheby’s sale, the recent A Muddled Mind That’s Never Confined (2021)—a roughly six-square-foot painting she donated to support the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s climate campaign—reached another result tenfold the estimate, £1 million ($1.4 million). And then that evening at Phillips, her 55-square-inch Myths of Pleasure (2017), was underbid online from Korea before selling 10 times over its estimate for £1.1 million ($1.6 million).

The artist’s London dealer Pippy Houldsworth was out of action with a spine injury, but dealing heroically with business inquiries from her sick bed. “The sellers this week were not speculators,” she told me. “The paintings are very early works [from 2017], made while she was still at college or very soon after. They were sold to young and passionate—but as yet unseasoned—collectors in the days before there was significant demand for Jadé’s work. Rather than being speculators, these people just got lucky.”

The most important sale for Fadojutimi, said Houldsworth, was A Muddled Mind That’s Never Confined, with proceeds going to WWF’s climate campaign. “This is a cause that Jadé fervently believes in and one that needs support at this critical time,” Houldsworth said.

Explore more works by Jadé Fadojutimi.

Reggie Burrows Hodges, For the Greater Good, 2019. Courtesy of Phillips.

Works by the 56-year-old figurative painter Reggie Burrows Hodges were a new presence on the auction block during Frieze Week. Having studied theater and film at the University of Kansas, Hodges’s work—painted with a soft, hazy touch on dark backgrounds—could be categorized as ambiguous narratives featuring characters with blurred identities. Among the influences he acknowledges are Milton Avery and Édouard Vuillard. In a Karma exhibition catalogue this year, Hilton Als highlighted his association with Black resistance with the idea that Blackness is “heavy” politically and artistically, in the sense of being loaded with meaning. The globetrotting art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, writing about his first meeting with Hodges this year, conceded that, from his perspective, the artist had been operating “under the radar.”

For the Greater Good (2019) is a portentous painting of two figures facing off on a darkened tennis court, and was the first appearance at auction for the artist’s work. It came with an estimate from Phillips of £30,000 ($41,000). John H. Surovek, a collector from Maine, where Hodges lives, told Artsy that he discovered Hodges’s work at a local exhibition in 2019, when the paintings were priced between $12,000 and $20,000. He bought several examples, which were then posted online. After the Karma show, which sold out at prices around $50,000 to $70,000, Surovek received hundreds of messages from Singapore, China, Israel, Switzerland, and elsewhere asking to buy from his collection and offering prices between $200,000 and $400,000. “One even offered to FedEx the cash,” Surovek recalled.

Reggie Burrows Hodges
Hurdling: Sky Blue, 2020

Over at Frieze, Hodges’s New York gallery, Karma, had sold another example of his work priced at around $170,000. The tennis court painting was quickly overrun by bidders from Hong Kong, Samoa, and New York. It finally sold to a woman bidding in the room, identified as Ma Qin, a former Christie’s staffer in Beijing who is working for an art fund from London but bought it for a private collector for a benchmark price of £441,000 ($603,000).

“We were all aware his show at Karma had sold out,” said Olivia Thornton of Phillips. “That’s what we do: Keep an eye on what people are interested in. In this case, the owner, a Scandinavian collector, came to us to propose the sale.” That collector was clearly well informed.

Explore more works by Reggie Burrows Hodges.

Colin Gleadell
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019