Market Brief: Do Ho Suh’s Finely Crafted Sculptures Are Resurgent at Auction and Selling Out at Fairs
Do Ho Suh’s ghostly, meticulously crafted recreations of architectural details and entire spaces have ignited serious interest on Artsy this past week, with the number of collectors inquiring on the artist’s work increasing eightfold week over week. This surge came on the heels of the Korean artist’s show-stopping appearance in Lehmann Maupin’s presentation at Frieze London. On the fair’s first day, the gallery sold more than 15 works from Suh’s “Specimens” series for a combined $1.42 million; by the fair’s end, Suh’s new “ScaledBehaviour” works had completely sold out.
- The chart above shows the volume of Suh’s works that have sold at auction by year, starting with his work’s auction debut in 2006, when the iris print Flower (2002) sold for $960 at a Phillips sale in New York. By 2009, the secondary market for works by Suh was accelerating, with seven of his sculptures and lithographs surfacing at auction. The artist’s current auction record was set that year, at a Christie’s sale in London, when his stainless steel sculpture constructed with military dog tags and fiberglass resin, Some/One (2004), more than doubled its high estimate to sell for £493,250 ($812,600).
- After peaking in 2010—the year of his inclusion in both the Liverpool Biennial and the Venice Architecture Biennale—the volume of Suh’s works selling on the secondary market leveled off and then began to drop. In 2014, only one of his works sold at auction.
- Suh’s market has been heating up this year. With two months left in 2021, the number of his works sold at auction has already nearly tripled 2020’s total, making it the artist’s biggest year on the secondary market to date. His works sold at auction this year have achieved prices ranging from $2,700 for a floral print to $126,000 for a large-scale plastic and stainless steel work.
- On the primary market, prices for Suh’s conceptual works have seemed to lag behind benchmarks set at auction. At the online-only May 2020 edition of Frieze New York, Victoria Miro was offering his large-scale pencil-on-paper work My Homes-3 (2012) for $120,000. And at the virtual edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach last December, the gallery offered Suh’s set of textile locks Door Locks: London, New York and Seoul Homes (2020) and textile door sculpture Entrance, Ground Floor, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA (2016) for $65,000 and $260,000, respectively.
Rising interest in Suh’s work at auction since 2014’s nadir is echoed in Artsy’s data. On-platform demand for his work has been through the roof in recent years, with the number of inquiries thus far in 2021 on pace to match last year’s peak. His strong showing at this month’s Frieze London follows a recently closed solo exhibition at LACMA. Titled “348 West 22nd Street,” the exhibition featured a full-scale replica in translucent fabric of the artist’s New York City apartment. Given the artist’s prolific output, strong sales at fairs, and widespread institutional support, it’s likely the volume of his works appearing on the secondary market will continue to increase.