Market Brief: Angel Otero’s Auction Record Broken for the Third Time This Year
Angel Otero, Acis and Galatea, 2013. Courtesy of Phillips.
The auction record for work by Angel Otero—the Puerto Rico–born, New York–based artist known for paintings fashioned from richly layered oilskins—was broken twice this month. On June 7th, at Phillips and Poly Auction’s joint day sale in Hong Kong, his 2015 canvas Drifter’s Escape quintupled its high estimate to sell for HK$1.2 million (US$162,000). That represented a modest jump of $5,000 from his previous auction record, set just three months earlier at a Christie’s sale in New York. Then, last week, his 2013 painting Acis and Galatea was offered during a Phillips’s day sale in New York with a pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It ultimately sold for $277,200, or more than 10 times its low estimate.
- The record result for Acis and Galatea represented a major windfall for the consignor, who bought the work at a 2013 Christie’s auction. Otero had donated the painting for sale to benefit the Brooklyn Museum. It exceeded its $30,000 high estimate to sell for $52,500. After holding onto it for eight years, the seller saw its value increase more than fivefold at last week’s sale.
- Until the recent string of record-breaking results, Otero’s paintings had commanded similar prices on the primary and secondary markets. Prior to this past March, his work had only achieved a six-figure sum at auction once, topping out at $121,000. Meanwhile, during last year’s online-only edition of Art Basel in Basel, Lehmann Maupin sold his nautical composition Drifting Far From Shore (2020) for $95,000; and during the virtual edition of Frieze New York last year, Kavi Gupta was offering a new painting, Willow of Mine (2020), priced between $50,000 and $100,000.
- Demand for Otero’s work on Artsy reflects the recent surge in auction activity. The number of collectors inquiring about his work on the platform grew incrementally from 2016 to 2019, then nearly doubled year over year in 2020. Demand thus far in 2021 is consistent with last year’s record level.
This month’s dramatic results may signal a coming acceleration of Otero’s secondary market; 2021 is poised to be a banner year for his work at auction not only in terms of value, but also supply. His works have never been offered at auction more than 10 times in a given year (and that was 2014); at the halfway mark of 2021, his paintings have already hit the auction block seven times. This recent velocity may be the result of Otero’s increasingly international collector base: In the past five years he’s had five solo shows with Lehmann Maupin at the gallery’s spaces in Hong Kong, Seoul, and New York. His work will also be included in the inaugural group show at the gallery’s new pop-up space in Aspen, Colorado—a popular destination for summering collectors—opening later this week. With collectors far and wide becoming familiar with his work, look for it to keep outperforming expectations at auction.