In 1972, Frankenthaler began showing with John Berggruen
in San Francisco, expanding her domestic footprint and continuing the steady accumulation of interested collectors, though according to Berggruen, she still was mainly a U.S.-centric phenomenon. “I felt that she was underappreciated, undervalued if you want to say, by virtue of European collectors and museums,” Berggruen said. “Her exposure was more domestic, and her success, too.”
He did also note, however, that Frankenthaler enjoyed a different, broader sort of clientele than Ab-Ex painters like Pollock or
, whose work, by nature of their high prices, was often purchased by a more insular group of collectors. Even today, that broader level of interest persists in Frankenthaler’s secondary-market appearances, according to Pritchard. “Many of the collectors I work with who look for Frankenthaler are not Ab-Ex collectors,” she said. “They have very contemporary collections; some of them are
collectors. Her work crosses categories, because her color has such a human, instinctive quality to it.”
Frankenthaler’s institutional recognition continued to grow in tandem with her expanding domestic collector base, showing at the Guggenheim
, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth
throughout the 1970s and ’80s. Her market continued to gain new dimensions around this time as well—in the mid-1980s, her works began appearing at auction, often going for prices around $10,000 or below, with some paintings occasionally breaching the $100,000 mark. By the 2000s, her work began to more steadily sell at auction for six-figure prices, and by the end of the decade, she had carved out a respectable niche for herself in the global collecting community.
In December 2011, just a month after Ginny Williams bought Royal Fireworks at Christie’s, Frankenthaler died at her home in Darien, Connecticut, at the age of 83. The following summer, in 2012, Gagosian began representing her estate, kickstarting her posthumous market apotheosis and helping spread the gospel of Frankenthaler’s color across the globe. The mega-gallery’s debut Frankenthaler show, which was held at its Chelsea location in 2013 and showcased her works from the 1950s, was met with widespread acclaim. The gallery would host four more solo shows over the following seven years while simultaneously promoting her placement in institutional shows in London, Venice, Paris, and beyond.
This robust international presence began to have ripple effects in Frankenthaler’s secondary market, as well. The year 2015 marked a turning point in her auction standing—over the course of four days in May, Frankenthaler burst through the million-dollar barrier, with her 1964 work Saturn Revisited selling for $2.8 million at a Sotheby’s New York sale. In the days that followed, three more works by Frankenthaler would sell above $1 million at auction, and an additional two paintings would break that barrier in the fall auctions later that year. Gagosian’s representation went hand in hand with broader canonical reconsiderations of women artists to help produce an extremely robust international market for Frankenthaler’s work, one primed for an earth-shattering price like the one achieved by Royal Fireworks last summer.