Artsy Insider: The Most In-Demand Artists in July 2021
By order of appearance: Khari Turner, Sunrise greeting the Ocean ground, 2019. Courtesy of Iris Project; Ha Chong-hyun, Conjunction 20-39, 2020. Courtesy of Tina Kim Gallery; Nelson Makamo, Untitled, 2021. Courtesy of MAKASIINI CONTEMPORARY; Chiharu Shiota, State of Being (Book), 2019. Courtesy of Blain | Southern.
Welcome to Artsy Insider. This week, I’m looking at the artists who had the biggest jumps in demand on the platform in July, sharing a collection featuring their work, and taking a close look at the markets for two of those artists: the prolific stringsmith Chiharu Shiota, and Ha Chong-hyun, a master of austere and exquisite minimalist painting.
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By the Numbers
Artists Who Saw Surging Demand in July
The chart above shows the artists who had the biggest month-over-month increases in the number of collectors inquiring about their work on Artsy in July. They include Kenny Scharf, whose market has long lagged behind those of his late contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat but increasingly seems poised to take off. In addition to the number of inquirers for his work more than tripling from June to July, Scharf’s auction record was broken on July 2nd when his whimsical 1983 painting Red Ball Jets and Orangetricity sold for £400,000 ($551,000)—more than six times its high estimate—at a Christie’s sale in London. Another artist with aesthetic ties to street art and rising demand on Artsy is the Japanese artist Haroshi. The surge in collectors inquiring about his work coincided with his exhibition “I versus I,” which closed last week after inaugurating Tokyo gallery Nanzuka’s newest location on July 10th. His work also consistently outperforms estimates at auction: His current record was set almost one year ago by D (Build and Destroy) (2015), one of his distinctive skateboard deck assemblages, which sold for $75,000—two and a half times its high estimate—at a Christie’s online sale.
The Most In-Demand Artists on Artsy in July
This week, Artsy’s Curatorial team presents a selection of currently available works by artists that collectors were enamored with in July. Browse pieces from artists such as Moisés Salazar Tlatenchi, Ajarb Bernard Ategwa, Emma Kohlmann, and more.
The Webslinger and the Brushmaster
At its marquee London evening sale on July 2nd, Christie’s offered a work that was so large the auction house couldn’t fit it into their King Street headquarters for the preview. Interested collectors had to book a time to visit Christie’s off-site storage warehouse in northeast London for a closer look at State of Being (2016), a sculpture measuring nearly 10 feet long by 10 feet wide, and more than four feet tall (before factoring in the similarly large plinth it sits on) by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. The piece, which features five thousand old keys suspended in a dense web of red thread, ultimately sold for £287,500 ($396,000)—nearly double its high estimate. That result was also a $150,000 jump from Shiota’s previous auction record, set less than a month earlier at a Phillips and Poly Auction day sale in Hong Kong.
Shiota’s profile has been on the rise since her star-making turn representing Japan at the Venice Biennale in 2015. On Artsy, demand for her work began to take off in 2019 when the number of collectors inquiring about her work tripled year on year; 2021 is her biggest year on the platform so far, with the number of inquiring collectors already surpassing last year’s record-setting total. Tellingly, secondary-market prices for her work have kicked up a notch in the past year. Her work first surpassed the $100,000 mark in December 2020, and has since done so six more times. On the primary market, prices for her works—especially those beyond her iconic constructions filled with threaded webs—remain comparably affordable. At the 2020 edition of The Armory Show, Galerie Templon sold new bronze sculptures of hers for prices between $34,000 and $45,400. At last month’s virtual edition of Frieze Los Angeles, König Galerie was offering a recent work in watercolor, crayon, and thread on paper for €6,600 ($7,800).
Ha Chong-hyun, a core member of the Dansaekhwa painting movement and a titan of the Korean art scene (he served as the director of the Seoul Museum of Art from 2001 to 2006), has also seen a surge in primary-market demand in recent years. Interestingly, that demand hasn’t translated to the secondary market (yet). On Artsy, the number of collectors inquiring about his work has risen every year; less than two-thirds of the way through 2021, it is already his biggest year on the platform. The number of inquiries peaked in May when New York’s Tina Kim Gallery opened its third solo show of Ha’s work, showcasing colorful compositions made in the past decade that marked a departure from his most iconic, monochromatic paintings.
After decades of showing primarily in Asia, Ha had his first solo shows in Europe in the 1990s, then in the U.S. starting in 2014 with an exhibition at Blum & Poe. Since then, he has become a fixture at international art fairs, where works from his seminal and ongoing “Conjunction” series—which he started in the 1970s by pushing paint through burlap and hemp cloth from the back, rather than applying it directly to the front, of a canvas—regularly fetch six-figure sums. Most recently, at Art Basel in Hong Kong in May, Korea’s Kukje Gallery sold four “Conjunction” works for prices between $143,000 and $155,000 each, while Almine Rech sold two of his paintings for prices between $130,000 to $200,000 each. Works from Ha’s “Conjunction” series dominate the secondary market for his work, accounting for eight of his 10 biggest auction results. Interestingly, only one of those results has been set since 2018. The two biggest sales of his work at auction date from the same Sotheby’s sale held in Hong Kong in November 2018: Conjunction 74-24 (1974) set his record when it surpassed its high estimate of HK$2 million (US$255,000) to sell for HK$2.7 million (US$351,000). As demand for Ha’s work continues to swell on the primary market, expect auction house specialists and collectors to line up “Conjunction” works for sale in the coming months.