The Artsy Advisor Notebook: March 2023
In this monthly series, we gather thoughts and highlights from Artsy’s in-house art experts on what they’re seeing, looking forward to, and enjoying in the art world this month.
What We’re Noticing
The new new
You would be forgiven for googling your way through the London auction results this week. The trend towards frontloading evening sales with ultra-contemporary artists (those born after 1975) has been growing steadily for the last several years, with Sotheby’s now dedicating the better part of a whole evening sale to the segment. But the cohort grows younger and more freshly minted to art world visibility by the season:
- Born: 1994
- First solo show: 2019
- Auction debut: March 2022 (£18,900; 530% above mid-estimate)
- This week: £730,800 (1,362% above mid-estimate)
- Born: 1997
- First solo show: 2021
- Auction debut: August 2022 ($316,560; 1236% above mid-estimate)
- This week: £609,600 (2,338% above mid-estimate)
- Born: 1989
- First solo show: 2019
- Auction debut: March 2023
- This week: £406,400 (712% above mid-estimate)
Right about now is where the hand-wringing usually starts about young artists’ markets growing too quickly and flippers exploiting them for their gain. There are plenty of examples from past and recent market cycles where that has been the case. But galleries have gotten more deft at managing their artists’ markets since the 2014 crapstraction boom. And the private art market has blossomed since, offering greater discretion for collectors who want to sell a work by a newly hot artist—almost always in order to purchase 10 more works by Untitled, NADA, or Liste’s latest class.
Meanwhile, the growth of the ultra-contemporary segment means that more of the white-hot settle into yellow-red rather than dropping into ice, as was the case post-2014. There are some funny lines in this week’s auction recaps noting how auction houses have now calibrated estimates to reality for some of the stars from one or two seasons ago, which seems more like the sign of a well-functioning market and our culture and journalism-wide appetite for a hype cycle than a bad thing.
If you ask me, it’s pretty nice to have yet another avenue to get excited about new artists. It’s good for the market to get more liquidity. And it’s good for that liquidity to flow back into young artists and the galleries that discover and support them.
—Alexander Forbes, Head of Collector Services & Private Sales, New York
A surreal-ly significant anniversary
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the birth of Surrealism, it is worth reflecting on the impact of this movement on the world of art and the lasting legacy it has left behind.
Spanish Surrealism is a fascinating and dynamic art movement that began in the 1920s and ’30s. These revolutionary artists rejected conventional methods of artistic expression, and responded to the horrors of World War I, as well as the growing disillusionment with traditional values and institutions.
The most iconic figure of Spanish Surrealism is Salvador Dalí, yet various other talented artists who contributed to the movement are gaining acclaim and commercial interest. Among the most notable of these are Remedios Varo, whose painting Retrato del Doctor Ignacio Chávez (1957) sold for $4.6 million at Christie’s, one of the artist’s highest auction results to date.
At Artsy, we have some works available for private sale by Surrealist artists including the aforementioned artists, as well as Leonora Carrington and Maruja Mallo, both of whom brought unique perspectives and styles to the movement and are seeing strong market interest today.
—Itziar Ramos Ricoy, Private Sales Advisor, London
Alice Neel at the Barbican
On the opening day of Alice Neel’s largest show in the U.K. at the Barbican Centre in London, I found myself deeply fascinated by the artist’s world. The exhibition starts with a late Self Portrait (1980) depicting the artist in her favorite chair with her trusted brush and flushed cheeks, an incredible effort at portraying herself with such raw honesty. It is clear that people and figuration come first for Neel, who was not following any of the artistic trends of her time. The artist’s inquisitive eye led her to examine mostly the marginalized in society (including mothers, workers, Vietnamese soldiers, and Black communities) through portraits in the intimacy of her home studio.
One of the most striking works is the image Andy Warhol (1970), which depicts the artist with his eyes closed and bare-chested, painted after his assassination attempt. Warhol seems fragile and exposed with his corset. It’s a deeply intimate portrait of the artist, far from the apparent superficiality of his Pop aesthetic.
—Daniela Bianco-Duppen, Senior Private Sales Advisor, London
What We’re Anticipating
Artsy Auctions’s inaugural prints sale
After a successful 2022 sale season, the specialist and advisory teams are back with a full calendar of Artsy Auctions. We have already concluded one of our highest-ever grossing Street Art sales in February, as well as our Black History Month Focus. Currently, our Post-War and Contemporary sale is live for bidding and running through March 7th.
As Artsy’s Head of Prints and Multiples, I am looking forward to our inaugural standalone print sale opening for preview on March 16th. The sale is focused tightly on post-war, contemporary, and emerging prints. There are several works by established blue-chip artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, and Roy Lichtenstein.
From leading contemporary artists, we have examples by Kara Walker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jonas Wood. My personal favorite is the amazing selection of works by emerging artists at very accessible prices. This includes works by Bony Ramirez, Brian Calvin, Vaughn Spann, GaHee Park, Ewa Juszkiewicz, and many more. Bidding goes live on March 22nd and runs through March 29th.
—Adam McCoy, Head of Prints and Multiples, New York
Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau mit Kirche II, 1910. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
The 2023 modern and contemporary art auction season kicks off with the London evening sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips this week. Artsy will host three of our own online auctions in the month of March as well. For sellers, this is the first major auction market test of the year, and for buyers, this is a chance to browse hundreds of offerings with works ranging in estimate from $1,000 to $45 million.
One recent trend is the art restitution taking place. From collector Ronald Lauder reaching a restitution agreement for his Gustav Klimt painting, to the Musee d’Orsay being ordered to return four of its masterpieces that were stolen during World War II, the topic of restitution is making major headlines in the art market.
Sotheby’s just sold a 1910 painting by Wassily Kandinsky that was looted by the Nazis and recently restituted to the heirs of the original owners. The work set a new record for the artist, selling for $44.9 million, almost exactly meeting expectations.
—Christine Aschwald, Senior Director, Specialist, Artsy Auctions
Tea with Nanan
One of Seoul’s sought-after emerging artists, Nanan Kang, is having a solo exhibition at 2gil29 gallery. Starting on March 18th, the exhibition will unveil a new series of works that underline the long-lasting classical beauty of Korean traditional ink painting (Sumukhwa).
With her continued interest in seeking “eternal beauty” and “foreverness,” Kang uses motifs from nature as well as traditional aesthetics from Korean culture. Her most iconic series, 2021’s “Long Long Time Flowers,” features works made from cut-outs of original paintings of flowers and other objects inspired by the motifs in old Korean folk paintings and crafts. For the upcoming exhibition, the artist will walk us through her own interpretation of traditional iconographies such as plum blossoms and traditional Korean tea culture.
Check out the artist on Instagram—she is not just an artist, but a massive “art influencer” here in Korea!
—Yeji Kim, Account Executive, South Korea
The Artists We’re Loving Now
I first encountered Caroline Walker’s work during the pandemic while scrolling on my phone, buried under a pile of blankets (and maybe some candy wrappers—feel free to judge). Given my background as a photographs specialist, I was immediately struck by the spatial compositions in Walker’s paintings, particularly by their charming awkwardness, their sincere intimacy, and their almost voyeuristic angle. When I learned that Walker based her paintings on photographs she had taken (often covertly), it all clicked (pardon the pun).
Walker is a keen student of art history, as evidenced by her ongoing dialogues with Manet’s freewinding flaneur as well as Diane Arbus’s unrelenting determination to capture marginalized groups and David Hockney’s mesmerizing frozen domesticity. Her subjects—always women—are unassuming, and vulnerable, and possess a raw candor that authenticates their experience, be it cleaning, lounging, resting, washing, or preening. They’re never posing, and in fact, seemingly are unaware of the artist’s presence.
In Mildmay Road 6.15pm: Illumination (2009)—lot #7 in our current Artsy Auction—the subject is donning house slippers while drying her hair, presumably after a shower, with the door ajar. The loose, warm brushstrokes convey a relaxed ambiance, and the slightly tilted vantage point reflects the spontaneity of the scene. The size of the painting, at just under 12 by 10 inches, emphasizes the delicate balance and the personal nature of the scene. A jewel of a painting, it shows Walker at her best.
—Shlomi Rabi, Vice President, Auctions, New York
Francesca Mollett, Phosphorous grip, 2022. © Francesca Mollett. Photo by On White Wall Studio. Courtesy of the artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam | New York | London.
I visited British artist Francesca Mollett at her studio in London last March 2022, just before she gained representation with GRIMM. Last December, her first work at auction, Untitled (Surfacing) (2021), sold for £81,900 ($100,198), more than 10 times its estimate.
Mollett’s dynamic abstract paintings show the artist’s singular ability to represent light, reflection, space, and depth. Many canvases appear to be filled with natural formations, plants, or skyscapes, which vibrate with the artist’s masterful use of color and expressive brushstrokes.
Critic and curator Tom Morton, who curated Mollett’s work into a group show at GRIMM in summer 2022, wrote of her work: “These are works much concerned with grasping the intangible…we get the impression of a poised moment in which thought emerges from the pigment in the form of an image, and something elusive is understood.”
Mollett will have her first solo show with GRIMM from June 1st through July 22nd at the gallery’s Amsterdam space.
—Adriana Almeida, Senior Private Sales Director, London
Fresh off of two outstanding auction results at Phillips and Sotheby’s respectively, the Shropshire, England–based Duncan McCormick is one of the artists I’ve got my eye on. With a palette heavily influenced by his time living and working in Barcelona, McCormick’s vibrant acrylic paintings of landscapes and interiors brim with optimism, striking a chord with collectors during this unsettling time. Rose Bay Lovers (2021) hammered for £151,200 ($186,686) at Sotheby’s “Contemporary Discoveries” sale in January—1,412% higher than its estimate. I expect we’ll see high demand for McCormick’s paintings over the coming months.
—George King, Senior Private Sales Advisor, London
Get in touch with our specialists and advisors to learn more about Artsy’s private sales, auctions, and other offerings.