Art Market

Artsy Insider: The Colored Pencil Works Drawing Collector Interest

Benjamin Sutton
Aug 29, 2021 6:30PM

By order of appearance: Igor Moritz, Charlie in Fulham, 2020. Courtesy of Coleccion SOLO; Sarah Ann Weber, What is it that will last?, 2021. Courtesy of Anat Ebgi; Skye Volmar, Pollinators, 2020. Courtesy of Kohn Gallery; Lucile Gauvain, Orders & Disorder 3, 2020. Courtesy of HOFA Gallery (House of Fine Art).

Welcome to Artsy Insider. This week, I’m revisiting one of the trends to watch that Artsy identified at the beginning of the year: the revival of colored pencil drawing. I’ll look at collector interest in pieces by artists working in this vein whom we highlighted back in January, share a collection of colored pencil drawings, and dive into the work of two deft drafters: the queer mysticism of Elijah Burgher and the futurist architecture of Cui Jie.

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By the Numbers

Colored Pencil Masters on the Rise


In January, Artsy highlighted a selection of artists contributing to the resurgence of colored pencil works. The chart above shows the increase in collector interest from the second half of 2020 to the first half of 2021 for works by six of those artists. Interest in works by the Mexican multidisciplinary artist Jorge Méndez Blake (whose practice also includes painting, sculpture, neon, and more) has risen steadily on Artsy since 2017, and this year is on track to be his biggest on the platform. On the secondary market, his work hasn’t been offered at auction since 2014, when his colored pencil piece Monumento William Morris IV (2013) sold for its low estimate of $20,000 at a Sotheby’s sale of Mexican contemporary art, setting the auction record for Méndez Blake’s work. The Polish artist Igor Moritz, meanwhile, has had only one auction appearance, just over two months ago, but it portends more to come: His boldly patterned painting In bed (2020) sold for $32,700, or about two and a half times its high estimate, at a Phillips day sale in New York. That secondary-market debut came at the tail end of a trio of solo shows this winter, spring, and summer, with New York’s Thierry Goldberg Gallery (online only), Milan’s A.More Gallery, and London’s Delphian Gallery, respectively. The number of users inquiring about his work on the platform increased more than sevenfold from 2019 to 2020, and the number for 2021 has already surpassed last year’s peak with four months left in the year.


Standout Works in Colored Pencil

From left to right: Zipora Fried, Fortuna, 2018. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.; Andy Rementer, Uccellino, 2020. Courtesy of Antonio Colombo; Megan Greene, Ninth Animate, 2019. Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery.

This week, Artsy’s Curatorial team presents a selection of currently available pieces by artists working with colored pencil. Browse works from artists such as Elijah Burgher, Cui Jie, Sarah Ann Weber, and more.

Explore the full collection on Artsy.

This Week

A Mystic and a Master Builder

Cui Jie, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of Pilar Corrias Gallery.

The Shanghai-born and -based artist Cui Jie has developed a distinctive formal language through her wildly imaginative drawings and paintings depicting retrofuturist and fragmented cityscapes. Her architectural inventions draw on avant-garde design movements like the Bauhaus and Japanese Metabolism, as well as styles borrowed from Chinese and Soviet propaganda. The resulting images, even when based on specific existing buildings, have an unmistakably dystopian aura.

On Artsy, interest in Cui’s work surged in 2018, the year of her solo show at Shenzhen’s OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT Shenzhen). That year, New York gallery Metro Pictures sold one of Cui’s paintings for $42,000 to an American collector at Art Basel in Miami Beach. The following year, at Art Basel in Hong Kong, the gallery sold four of her paintings for prices in the range of $45,000 to $50,000 each, and a 3D-printed sculpture for $15,000. Two months later, at Art Basel in Basel, Metro Pictures sold another painting of Cui’s for $46,000. Those figures were consistent with the secondary market for her work at the time: In November 2019, at a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong, her 2014 painting Internet Bar—an eerily empty street scene that appears to be bulging or melting in one corner—broke her auction record for the second time that year, fetching HK$275,000 (US$35,000). Since then, prices for Cui’s work at auction have ticked up. This past June, another of her ominous streetscapes from 2014 was offered at Holly’s International in Beijing, where it more than doubled its high estimate to sell for CN¥552,000 ($86,000) and smashed her auction record.

By comparison, the New York–born, Berlin-based artist Elijah Burgher is at the very beginning of his secondary-market trajectory. His bright and bold drawings—which span stylized portraits, dense yet light-filled constellations of symbols that recall Hilma af Klint, and psychedelic works made by applying bleach and ink to photographs—made their secondary-market debut in 2019, and to date have topped out at $1,375, a record set at a Hindman sale in March 2020.

On Artsy, the number of collectors inquiring about Burgher’s work has held steady since its first appearance on the platform in 2018. But that may soon change, thanks in part to a string of solo shows in the past three years at Bucharest’s Ivan Gallery, LAXArt in Los Angeles, and Western Exhibitions in Chicago. Another factor that Burgher’s career and market could be poised for liftoff is that P.P.O.W started representing him in 2018. Though he has yet to have a solo show with the revered downtown New York gallery, it did bring a vivid, nearly six-foot-tall watercolor and colored pencil work by Burgher, Apollo flaying Marsyas (2021), to Frieze New York this past May. The price was $15,000, or more than 10 times his current auction record. Assuming the gallery continues to champion his work at major fairs and in its Tribeca showroom (his first solo show there will open November 19th), expect the gap between primary- and secondary-market prices for Burgher’s works to get much smaller.

Benjamin Sutton