Of course, museums have long recognized Kahlo, who has been a global phenomenon
for decades, and ’s
fur-lined teacup was the among the first artworks by a woman to enter MoMA’s collection
. But in recent years, they have paid closer attention to the wider spectrum of women associated with Surrealism, in particular to Carrington and Tanning, in part due to their prolificacy and the twists and turns of their artistic practices. Carrington, a British artist who broke with her traditional, privileged upbringing and spent the majority of her life in Mexico, is believed to have made more than 2,000 works. In 2015, the U.K.’s Tate Liverpool
organized a retrospective of her work; another followed this year at Mexico City’s Museum of Modern Art, featuring over 200 works.
Tanning, who also had a long, productive life making a diverse range of work that was strikingly ahead of its time—including semi-figurative soft sculptures made two decades ahead of
—is better represented in museum collections, a fact that Norris attributes to the work of The Dorothea Tanning Foundation. But she is only receiving her first major retrospective this fall, at Madrid’s Reina Sofía, followed by London’s Tate Modern. (She has yet to receive a retrospective in the United States, though her dream, Norris said, was to show at the Whitney Museum of American Art
Tanning has also seen an escalation of interest from private collectors. Her world-record price routinely doubled or tripled in the period between 2009 and 2015, according to auction records and Dawes’s observations. Though that gradient appears to have tapered off—in 2015, Tanning’s The Magic Flower Game (1941) narrowly surpassed $1 million at auction; three years later, in May 2018, the artist’s Temptation of St. Anthony (1945–46) hammered for just shy of $1.2 million, her latest record price—the works sell privately for more. Norris said great works by Tanning and Carrington go for between $1 million and $3 million behind closed doors.
Currently Norris has a waitlist for both Tanning and Varo, but perhaps none go as fast as the works of Sage, which are particularly rare. The American artist, known for her portentous, psychologically loaded landscapes, had a short career and made just a few hundred works. When a painting by her comes into Norris’s hands, she said, it goes within 48 hours.
The scarcity in Sage’s market—much of her work has been in institutional collections for many years—suggests that her sale price will continue to rise as paintings become available. Though Rosenfeld agrees the growing interest in the women of Surrealism has generally been consistent and steady—“not meteoric”—for certain periods of production, it has accelerated more sharply. “There’s a very limited supply of high-quality early paintings by Kay Sage and Dorothea Tanning,” he said, “and there’s a dramatically increasing demand.”