Art Market

Market Brief: Rashid Johnson’s Rise Continues with Major Art Basel in Hong Kong Sale

Benjamin Sutton
May 24, 2021 10:02PM

Rashid Johnson, Untitled Broken Crowd, 2021. ©️ Rashid Johnson. Photo by Martin Parsekian. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

The latest

It’s been a big month for Rashid Johnson. Last week, his large-scale, mixed-media-on-tile work Untitled Broken Crowd (2021) sold for $595,000 out of Hauser & Wirth’s booth at Art Basel in Hong Kong. The buyer: billionaire investor and mega-collector Liu Yiqian’s private museum in Shanghai, the Long Museum. The week before, Johnson’s large composition Anxious Red Painting December 18th (2020) hit the auction block at the marquee Christie’s evening sale in New York, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It ultimately sold for nearly 10 times its low estimate, or $1.95 million, smashing his previous record by about $800,000.

Key figures

  • The chart above shows each of Johnson’s auction records, from his secondary-market debut in 2008—when his 2003 print I talk white fetched $6,250 in a sale at Phillips (then Phillips de Pury & Company)—to the spectacular result for Anxious Red Painting December 18th earlier this month. His second auction record, the $56,250 that the sculpture Radio amateur’s handbook (2009) sold for at a Christie’s sale in November 2011, came just over a month after Johnson signed with Hauser & Wirth.
  • That price was more than doubled a year later when the burnt wood composition The Canyon (2012) came to auction at Sotheby’s; in the year since the Radio amateur’s handbook sale, Johnson had had his first solo show with Hauser & Wirth, his second with David Kordansky, and another at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in the artist’s native city.
  • It would be more than three years before his auction record was so decisively smashed again, this time by the large mixed-media work Untitled Escape Collage (2018), which nearly doubled his record (and its high estimate) when it sold for $381,000 at a Sotheby’s sale in May 2018.
  • A year later, his auction record was broken twice on successive days: first when his 2016 composition on ceramic tile Color Men outpaced its $200,000–$300,000 estimate to sell for $500,000 at a Phillips day sale on May 15, 2019; and the following night at Sotheby’s when a work with the same presale estimate, Untitled Escape Collage (2019), more than doubled that result, fetching $1.16 million. That record held until this month’s Christie’s result.


Rashid Johnson, Anxious Red Painting December 18th, 2020. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

The two seven-figure auction results for Johnson’s work remain outliers, but comparing them to primary-market prices suggests his work is rising rapidly in value. For instance, Anxious Red Painting July 8th, 2020 (2020), another work from Johnson’s “Anxious Red Painting” series and identical in size to the record-breaking work from the recent Christie’s sale, sold for a little over a third of that price, or $675,000, from Hauser & Wirth’s booth at the virtual edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach just six months ago. Two months prior, the gallery sold a significantly larger work from the series, Anxious Red Painting August 20th (2020), for $850,000 at Frieze London’s virtual edition.

Similarly, primary-market prices for works from the “Untitled Escape Collage” series have tended to hover in the mid-six figures. Hauser & Wirth sold a 2019 work in the series—significantly larger than the $1.16 million example at Sotheby’s—for a little over half that price, or $595,000, at Art Basel in Miami Beach’s 2019 edition. And at the virtual edition of Art Basel in Basel last June, David Kordansky sold a 2020 work from the series for $475,000. With recent high-profile institutional purchases like the Long Museum’s, and the Metropolitan Museum acquiring another work from one of his distinctive ceramic tile series in March, expect demand and prices for those bodies of work in particular—and Johnson’s work as a whole—to keep rising. On Artsy, the number of collectors inquiring about his work more than tripled from 2018 to 2020, and this year is already well on its way to being his biggest ever on the platform.

Explore more works by Rashid Johnson.

Benjamin Sutton