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Art Market

Market Brief: Christina Quarles’s Auction Ascent

Shannon Lee
Jun 4, 2021 8:52PM

The latest

Last week, the Los Angeles–based painter Christina Quarles, known for expressive and fragmented figurative works exploring personal experiences with ambiguity and identity, became the latest rising star to join Hauser & Wirth’s roster. The international gallery will represent Quarles alongside London’s Pilar Corrias, which has shown her work since 2018. The support of one of the world’s most powerful galleries is a significant career benchmark for the fast-rising artist, and reflects growing collector demand for her work.


Key figures

  • Quarles made her secondary-market debut in 2018, when her canvas Pull on Thru tha Nite (2017) sold for $255,000 at a Phillips evening sale—more than eight times the work’s $30,000 low estimate. This phenomenal first appearance on the secondary market came just two years after Quarles received her MFA from Yale. It also came just two months after her first solo show with Pilar Corrias.
  • That same year, Quarles’s work was included in the Hammer Museum’s tastemaking “Made in L.A. 2018” biennial, which likely put her on the radars of more prominent curators and collectors. It was also a breakout year for Quarles on Artsy: She was included in The Artsy Vanguard 2018, and the number of collectors inquiring about her work on the platform more than tripled from the year before.
  • In 2019, her auction record saw a modest jump with the sale of another 2017 canvas, Moon (Lez Go Out N’ Feel Tha Nite), which sold for $275,000 at a Phillips day sale. This was only the second painting by Quarles to surface at auction and followed her receipt of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s eponymous prize.
  • Quarles saw her most significant secondary-market leaps in 2020: first in July with Placed (2017), which sold for $400,000, and then in December with Tuckt (2016), which achieved $655,200. Both works far surpassed the $100,000 high estimates Phillips had given them.
  • Between these record-breaking 2020 sales, Quarles also saw her Asia auction debut, following her first solo exhibition in the region at Shanghai’s Pond Society in 2019. While the work, All tha Stars Man—tha Stars Look Beautiful Tonite (2016), fell short of shattering her overall record at Christie’s Hong Kong, it did nearly triple its low estimate. And just last month, her 2015 painting But Baby, In Here Its Fine sold for HK$4.1 million (US$531,000) at a Christie’s evening sale in Hong Kong, notching her second-highest auction result to date.


Takeaway

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Interest in Quarles’s work at auction has steadily ascended, with prices reliably skyrocketing past estimates and suggesting a tendency (at least thus far) to undervalue her work on the secondary market. Meanwhile, her primary market seems on pace with auction estimates—Regen Projects sold her painting Get Lifted (2020) for $175,000 at this past December’s digital edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach just days before her $655,200 auction record was set.

This ascent has no doubt been exciting for an artist just a few years out of grad school, and 2021 is shaping up to be Quarles’s biggest year. In addition to joining Hauser & Wirth, the artist has a packed schedule with three institutional exhibitions this spring around the world. The first, which just closed at Beijing’s X Museum, marked Quarles’s first major institutional solo exhibition in Asia and a promising signal for the burgeoning market for her work in the region. In the United States, her solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago—the most comprehensive presentation of her work to date—is on view through September. And later this month, Quarles will open her first solo exhibition at a London institution, at South London Gallery. Collectors will have to wait until the fall of 2022 for her first solo show with Hauser & Wirth, slated for the gallery’s New York headquarters.

Explore more works by Christina Quarles.

Shannon Lee