Market Brief: Renewed Interest in Maggi Hambling Is Driving a Surge in the Market for Her Works
The demand for Maggi Hambling’s evocative portraits and exuberant depictions of seascapes and landscapes surged this past week on Artsy, when the number of collectors inquiring on her work increased more than tenfold from the week before. The British artist, esteemed for her whirling, gestural paintings and bold public sculptures, has seen a consistent wave of interest in her work that has accelerated in the past few years. This recent uptick in interest on Artsy is consistent with Hambling’s career trajectory, which has been punctuated by a flurry of public commissions, institutional recognition, and secondary-market demand.
- One of Hambling’s first major career achievements arrived in 1980—11 years after the artist graduated from London’s Slade School of Fine Art—when she became the first artist in residence at the National Gallery in London. The residency was followed by a solo exhibition at the museum of Hambling’s paintings and drawings.
- Following a string of shows around the United Kingdom, Hambling’s work made its first appearance on the secondary market in 1989. The artist’s 1976 portrait Miss Mace, Saturday Night, featuring Hambling’s local tobacconist spread out on a couch inebriated after drinking barley wine, was offered at a Phillips London sale. The portrait, rendered in bold hues of red, crept past its high estimate of £800 ($1,237) to sell for £920 ($1,423).
- Six years after her work made its modest auction debut, Hambling was jointly awarded the U.K.’s prestigious Jerwood Prize for Painting with the late artist Patrick Caulfield. Then, in 1997, the artist was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create an outdoor sculpture as a memorial to Oscar Wilde. A Conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998) features the Irish poet and playwright emerging from a green granite coffin holding a cigarette. In 2003, Hambling was commissioned to produce a sculpture celebrating the composer Benjamin Britten. The 13-foot-tall stainless steel Scallop (2003) stands on a beach outside of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, near Britten’s home. Both projects received divisive reactions from critics and the public.
- Amid public commissions and awards, Hambling’s secondary market has progressed at a steady pace, hitting a fever pitch in recent years—all but one of Hambling’s top 10 auction results have been secured in the past decade. The artist’s top auction record currently stands at £32,500 ($42,864), set in 2019, when the oceanic painting CASCADING WAVE (2007) sold for nearly triple its high estimate at a Sotheby’s sale in London. Hambling’s other record-breaking results have either met or surpassed their high estimates when offered at auction.
- Collector interest in Hambling’s sprawling works has swelled on Artsy in the last two years in particular. From 2019 to 2020, the number of collectors on the platform inquiring on works by Hambling increased by a factor of 16. That surge coincided with the year the artist unveiled her controversial statue commemorating the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft (2020) depicts a nude female form rising out of a swirl of organic matter. Despite this contentious critical reception, Hambling has seen her demand continue to accelerate on Artsy. Thus far in 2021, the number of inquiries on Hambling’s work is on track to outpace last year’s peak.
The prolific artist, whose career spans six decades, has shown no signs of slowing down. Last March, Hambling was once again commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, this time to paint tennis star Andy Murray. The portrait of Murray in motion on the court is currently on display at the museum. Hambling was also recently the subject of profiles in The Guardian and The Economist. The stories tracked Hambling’s trailblazing career while focusing on her current and upcoming projects: The artist’s installation Relic (2021), produced alongside sound recordist Chris Watson, was recently on view at Snape Maltings in London and her“Wave Series” was recently exhibited in the group show “Summer Exhibition” at Marlborough London. Meanwhile, this October, portraits by Hambling will be presented at the Italian gallery Thomas Brambilla. She is also currently the focus of a solo exhibition at The Corn Hall arts venue in England, which runs through October 9th and brings together new works by the artist.