Art Market

9 Artists Who Made Major Gallery Moves This Summer

Kaylie Felsberg
Aug 30, 2021 7:28PM

The right partnership between an artist and a gallery is one that fosters growth and helps to move an artist’s career forward. For many artists, joining a new gallery can often open up different possibilities when it comes to their practice. It also often introduces their work to a wider net of curators and collectors. The relationship between gallery and artist has become all the more crucial as the world slowly begins to open back up after a year and a half of disruption brought on by the ongoing pandemic. Below, we highlight nine artists who made major gallery moves this past summer.

Portia Zvavahera

B. 1985, Harare, Zimbabwe. Lives and works in Harare.

Joined David Zwirner

Portia Zvavahera
Handidi kutungwa (Don’t attack), 2020

Last September, the Zimbabwean artist Portia Zvavahera debuted a new body of work for her first-ever European solo exhibition at David Zwirner’s London outpost. The show, titled “Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira” (“I took my rest in sleep and then I awoke for He sustained me” in the language of the Indigenous Shona tribe of Zimbabwe), presented a series of five large-scale, surrealistic dreamscape paintings Zvavahera completed in her Harare-based studio. Inhabited with draped, floating figures, the exhibition’s looming works continued the artist’s pursuits of examining her fascination with spiritual realms. Nearly ten months after Zvavahera’s stellar debut at David Zwirner, the blue-chip powerhouse announced its representation of the artist, in collaboration with Stevenson. This fall, Zvavahera is scheduled for her second solo exhibition with David Zwirner at the gallery’s New York outpost, which could help expand the artist’s primarily European market into the United States.

Portia Zvavahera
Tauya kwamuri (We have come), 2020
Portia Zvavahera
Ndibuditsei Ipapo (Take me out of there), 2021

Zvavahera joining the gallery came amid rising demand for the artist’s expressive brushwork on the primary and secondary markets in the past year. In October 2020, at the virtual edition of Frieze London, the gallery offered a 2020 painting of Zvavahera’s, THIS IS WHERE I TRAVELLED [4]. The oil on canvas work, rife with vibrant colors and elaborate swirling patterns, sold for $100,000. That price represented a significant markup from Zvavahera’s July auction debut, where her painting of two figures embracing against a sea of teal and black, Pakatangira Rudo (Where Love Began) (2014), sold for its high estimate of ZAR$350,000 (US$21,000) at a Strauss & Co. evening sale. Zvavahera’s celestial paintings next hit the auction block a mere 10 days after her presentation at Frieze London, at a Phillips evening sale in London. There, the artist’s work Arising from the Unknown (2019)—in which a human silhouette is swallowed by a swath of blue—fetched an astonishing £163,800 ($212,121). The work sold for nearly three times its high estimate and set a new auction record for the artist. That shocking rise is also reflected in Artsy’s data: Demand for Zvavahera’s works was stagnant up until last year, when the number of collectors inquiring on works by the artist more than quadrupled.

Katherine Bernhardt

B. 1975, St. Louis, Missouri. Lives and works in St. Louis.

Joined David Zwirner

In addition to Zvavahera, in early July, David Zwirner announced that Katherine Bernhardt would also be joining its growing roster. Over the past two decades, Bernhardt has amassed a cult-like following over her beloved 1980s-inspired compositions packed with nostalgic figures and everyday items like Star Wars characters and watermelon slices. Within the past five years, however, that enthusiasm has accelerated with multiple record-breaking appearances at auction, as well as a surge in visibility at fairs. The Missouri-based painter recently wrapped up two solo exhibitions at Panama City’s Diablo Rosso and online at NANZUKA in Japan; meanwhile, Bernhardt’s first exhibition with David Zwirner will be held at its London gallery next spring.

The demand for Bernhardt’s fluorescent, gestural paintings on Artsy spiked significantly in 2015—the same year the artist’s work broke the $50,000 mark at auction. Her 2014 canvas Hawaiian Punch sold for £37,500 ($56,878) at a Phillips sale in London. The number of collector inquiries on Bernhardt’s works hit its highest peak thus far in 2020, but this year is on track to surpass last year’s numbers. Bernhardt’s primary market has taken off in similar fashion. Canada—the artist’s longtime New York gallery which now co-represents her alongside David Zwirner—has been offering her acrylic and watercolor works on paper within the range of $7,000 to $7,500, while the large-scale paintings were priced between $40,000 to $90,000 at art fairs this past year. Those price points suggest the primary-market demand for Bernhardt’s work is beginning to creep up to the rising six-figure prices regularly seen on the auction block. Bernhardt’s current secondary-market record, set this past June at a Phillips sale in New York, is $233,100 for the 2016 large-scale untitled canvas of the Pink Panther bookended by watermelons.

Olga de Amaral

B. 1932, Bogotá, Colombia. Lives and works in Bogotá.

Joined Lisson Gallery

Olga de Amaral
Alquimia Plata 6 A, 1995
Salon 94

Though Colombian artist Olga de Amaral’s career dates back to the 1950s, a renewed interest in her gilded, abstract installations has shaped the artist’s summer into a particularly busy one. This past July, the pioneering textile artist joined Lisson Gallery. Shortly after, de Amaral received her first major retrospective in North America at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which opened on July 25th, and features over 50 works by the artist and examines her architectural experiments with the woven form. The retrospective is up through September 19th before it travels to the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan in October and to New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in late 2022. Pulling from her education in architecture, her surrounding Colombian landscapes, and pre-Columbian artifacts, de Amaral’s works are currently exhibited in her first solo show with Lisson Gallery at its East Hampton space. This coming November, the artist is also scheduled for another exhibition with the gallery at its Chelsea location.

Olga de Amaral
Estela 56, 2015
Richard Saltoun

All but two of the artist’s top 10 auction results have been achieved in the past five years. In 2018, demand for de Amaral’s work skyrocketed to the half-million-dollar range for the first time with the sale of the earth-hued piece CESTA LUNAR 50A (1991) at Sotheby’s. Thus far, her primary market has seemed to lag behind her auction records. At last year’s online-only edition of Frieze New York, Richard Saltoun Gallery offered two pieces by the artist: a 1970s textile work and a work from 2015 at $110,000 and $240,000, respectively. Meanwhile, on Artsy, the artist’s intricate latticeworks are seeing steady demand, with the number of inquiries thus far in 2021 on pace with last year’s peak.

Cassi Namoda

B. 1988, Maputo, Mozambique. Lives and works in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York.

Joined Mendes Wood DM

Demand for works by the New York–based Mozambican artist Cassi Namoda has swiftly ascended in recent years, due in large part to her radiant figurations of post-colonial Mozambique. In May of this year, Mendes Wood DM presented the artist’s first solo exhibition at its São Paulo space. This exhibition featured fantastical, rich portrayals of Black subjects in domestic interiors; it also came ahead of the gallery’s announcement in July that it would co-represent Namoda alongside François Ghebaly in Los Angeles and New York and Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, and East Hampton. The representation is a signal of the increasingly global momentum Namoda has been building for years, also evidenced by strong showings on the primary and secondary markets.

Last June, during the online-only edition of Art Basel in Basel, Goodman Gallery sold Namoda’s Bar Mundo at 12am (2020) for approximately $20,000. Six months later, at the all-virtual edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach, François Ghebaly sold two canvases by the artist priced at $18,000 and $24,000. By March 2021, Namoda’s work began making a splash at auction. That month, her 2021 canvas Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Toro, featuring the artist’s colorful reimagining of a photo of the former Ugandan minister of cultural affairs carrying a bunch of bananas, skyrocketed past its high estimate of £12,000 ($16,437) at a Phillips and Whitechapel Gallery charity auction. The work ended up achieving a total of £55,000 ($75,337).

That astounding debut result likely inspired an expansion in Namoda’s collector base. On the opening days of Frieze New York, two months after the Phillips sale, Goodman Gallery sold the artist’s stunning painting A Spiritual Declaration, Under the Weight of It All (2021) for $25,000 to a prominent Asian museum. This growing global collector interest in Namoda’s work is echoed by Artsy’s data: On-platform demand for the artist’s depictions of everyday life has been through the roof in recent years, with the number of inquiries increasing a little more than eight times year over year in 2020.

Joel Mesler

B. 1974, Los Angeles. Lives and works in Sag Harbor, New York.

Joined David Kordansky Gallery

May was a showstopping month for New York–based artist and former art dealer Joel Mesler, whose wry autobiographical paintings have piqued the interest of collectors and galleries alike. On May 7th, the artist announced he joined David Kordansky Gallery’s artist roster; the Los Angeles–based gallery will exhibit Mesler’s newest works during its presentation at Art Basel in Switzerland this September. Four days after this representation announcement, a work by Mesler broke his record at auction when it sold for $275,000 at a Christie’s evening sale in New York. The lush canvas, New York, New York (2021), sold for over four times its $60,000 high estimate and saw a 30 percent increase from Mesler’s last auction record, which was achieved a month before.

On the primary market, works by Mesler appear to be more accessible. At the 2019 edition of Independent Art Fair in New York, Mesler participated in the White Columns’s booth creating portraits of fairgoers that were sold for $250 each. The artist’s ascent on the secondary market is reflected on Artsy, where the demand for Mesler’s work has steadily risen since first appearing on the platform in 2018. Thus far in 2021, the number of inquiries on Mesler’s work has already surpassed last year’s total.

Jim Shaw

B. 1952, Midland, Michigan. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

Joined Gagosian

After 40 years, Metro Pictures—the New York gallery founded by Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring—announced earlier this year that it would shutter its doors by the end of 2021. The announcement led many of its mainstays to seek out different representation, including the acclaimed artist Jim Shaw. Shaw, revered for his often surreal paintings and installations examining American popular culture and the occult, announced in late June that he joined Gagosian’s artist roster, which would represent him alongside Simon Lee Gallery in London, Praz-Delavallade in Paris, and Massimo De Carlo in Milan. The artist’s singular visual language that pulls imagery from psychedelic posters and comic books has fascinated collectors since the 1980s. For decades, the demand for works by Shaw on the secondary market has been steadily rising, reaching a fever pitch in 2007. The artist’s top three auction records were all set that year, surging into the six-figure range for the first time. The sale of Shaw’s theatre backdrop painting The Donner Party (2003), which references the infamously fatal 1846 journey across the Sierra Nevada, holds the top auction record for works by Shaw after it sold for $656,000 at a Christie’s sale in New York.

Jim Shaw
Dream Object: Paperback Cover: In Wyoming I Walked Without A Shirt Towards A Glowing Cave...,, 1999
Marc Jancou

The primary-market prices for Shaw’s compositions roughly fall in line with the lower echelons of his secondary market. At the December 2018 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach, Metro Pictures sold Shaw’s 2018 painting Official Portrait (Homunculus), in which he incorporated human hair into the work, for $50,000. On Artsy, collector interest in Shaw’s works spiked following his major retrospective at the New Museum in 2015–16 and has remained consistent year over year, indicating a steady demand for his fantastical creations.

Trudy Benson

B. 1985, Richmond, Virginia. Lives and works in Brooklyn.

Joined Miles McEnery Gallery

Trudy Benson, known for her exuberant, abstract paintings that are reminiscent of 1980s computer graphics, joined Miles McEnery Gallery in mid-May. The gallery’s representation announcement caps the meteoric rise of the New York–based artist, whose colorful grids and patterns have been exhibited in solo and group shows for over a decade and are in the holdings of London’s Saatchi Gallery, as well as mega-collector couple Susan and Michael Hort. Benson’s first solo exhibition with Miles McEnery Gallery is scheduled for this winter in New York.

Trudy Benson
Peach Portal, 2021
Sunny NY
Trudy Benson
Loop, 2019
Miles McEnery Gallery

The painter’s layered works of geometric shapes, stripes, and flattened forms have shown up on the secondary market a total of 23 times. Her top auction record currently stands at $32,500, set in 2014, when the large-scale work Red Giant (2011) sold for nearly double its high estimate at a Phillips sale in New York. While her secondary-market demand has since wavered, on Artsy, interest in Benson’s spunky and joyous paintings spiked last year, with the number of inquiries on works by the artist nearly doubling from the year prior.

Haley Josephs

B. 1987, Seattle. Lives and works in Brooklyn.

Joined Almine Rech

Haley Josephs’s work was featured in a string of group shows in 2020, including one curated by artist Marcus Jahmal, with Almine Rech, before the gallery announced its formal representation of the artist in early June. Josephs’s inaugural solo exhibition with the gallery is slated for September 9th at its Brussels space, which will present a new body of work by the emerging artist. At first glance, Josephs’s paintings appear whimsical and vibrant, often centering around the recurring character of her late sister. Offset by a dark undercurrent, the works examine the weight of generational family trauma through solitary figures who are typically in apocalyptic environments. The conflicted, autobiographical paintings by Josephs have struck a chord with collectors on the primary market.

Last April, at the 2020 online-only edition of Dallas Art Fair, Jack Barrett offered two of Josephs’s paintings priced at $11,000 and $12,000. Then in October, during the online-only edition of Frieze London, Almine Rech sold Josephs’s 2020 meditative and dreamy canvas Puberty Blues, featuring two young girls smoking in a lush green field, in the range of $15,000 to $25,000. Josephs’s burgeoning primary market has paralleled the artist’s growing demand on Artsy, where the number of inquiries on the artist’s work nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. Thus far in 2021, that number is already outpacing last year’s peak. Despite the surge in demand on the primary market in works by Josephs, they have yet to appear at auction.

Nicholas Hlobo

B. 1975, Cape Town. Lives and works in Johannesburg.

Joined Goodman Gallery

In late July, Goodman Gallery announced its representation of Nicholas Hlobo; his first solo exhibition with the gallery is scheduled for next year. The Cape Town–born, Johannesburg-based artist, who is also represented by Lehmann Maupin, is renowned for his expansive practice of large-scale, mixed-media works—typically constructed with rubber, copper, and ribbon—that investigate masculinity, ethnicity, and sexual identity in post-apartheid South Africa. With spaces in Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, and New York, Goodman Gallery allows Hlobo to deepen his network both at home and abroad. His joining Goodman Gallery is the latest milestone in an already long list of achievements, which includes an installation at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Since 2017, a dozen of Hlobo’s large sculptural works have surfaced at auction and have been received with varying degrees of success. The artist’s current auction record was set in 2017 at a Sotheby’s sale in London when a 2006 untitled mixed-media work by Hlobo sold for £60,000 ($77,460), against a high estimate of £12,000 ($15,450). That price is in line with works presented a year later at Art Basel in Miami Beach, where Lehmann Maupin sold two ribbon and leather on canvas works by Hbolo, Ingcambu yemvelo (2018) and Umkhono (2017), for prices in the range of $100,000 to $150,000 and $60,000 to $70,000, respectively.

Kaylie Felsberg
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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