Advertisement
Art Market

Market Brief: Sanford Biggers’s Captivating Work Breaks Auction Record amid Rising Demand

Kaylie Felsberg
Oct 11, 2021 6:44PM

Sanford Biggers, Neroluce, 2018. Courtesy of Phillips.

The latest

This past September, Sanford Biggers’s auction record was broken at a Phillips “New Now” sale in New York, when a textile work featuring three glittering figures with flowing, black hair, Neroluce (2018), sold for $75,600—nearly double its high estimate. The sale was a more than $25,000 jump from his previous record, set in December 2020 at another New York Phillips sale. The Los Angeles–born, Harlem-based artist is acclaimed for his sculptures and artful alterations of heirloom quilts that highlight American violence and the Black experience. September’s staggering record is the most recent crest in a wave of institutional and market enthusiasm over Biggers’s work in the past three years.


Key figures

Advertisement
  • Biggers’s work made its first appearance at auction in 2008 when his ceramic representation of Mary Magdalene Black Madonna (2002) sold for $3,750 at a Christie’s sale in New York, inching past its low estimate of $3,000. This debut coincided with Biggers’s receipt of a Creative Capital grant, which allowed him to produce a major multidisciplinary installation, The Cartographer’s Conundrum (2012), at MASS MoCA in 2012.
  • It wasn’t until a decade later that the secondary market for Biggers’s work would take off. In May 2018, the artist’s 2017 bronze bust Bam (for Jordan) sold for $23,750 at a Sotheby’s sale in New York, sending the market for his work into the five-figure range for the first time. Then, in 2019, Biggers’s psychedelic textile piece QUILT #19 (ROCKSTAR) (2013) doubled its low estimate at a Sotheby’s New York auction, selling for $40,000. That same quilt appeared at a Phillips sale in New York a year later, fetching a total of $47,880.
  • Meanwhile, on the primary market, Biggers’s works hover in the upper five- to lower six-figure range. At the December 2019 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach, Marianne Boesky Gallery sold The Soothsayer (2019), a pink marble sculpture of a child wearing a traditional African mask, for $115,000. More recently, at this year’s edition of Art Basel in Basel, MASSIMODECARLO sold one of Biggers’s quilts, Subscript (2021), for $85,000.
  • This increasing demand for Biggers’s oeuvre on the primary and secondary markets is echoed on Artsy, where the number of collectors inquiring on his work has been steadily increasing since 2014. The momentum reached a fever pitch in 2020, with the number of inquiries on works by the artist tripling from the year prior. Thus far in 2021, that number is on track to exceed last year’s peak.


Takeaway

The artist’s record-breaking sale this past September corresponds with two big breakthroughs in Biggers’s career. This past May, Biggers took over New York’s Rockefeller Center with a campus-wide installation. Organized and presented by the nonprofit Art Production Fund in partnership with Marianne Boesky Gallery, the installation’s centerpiece was a colossal 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture entitled Oracle. Around the same time, the Bronx Museum of the Arts was exhibiting the artist’s first museum retrospective. The show subsequently traveled to the California African American Museum, where it is currently on view through January of next year. And later this week, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. will open a show of new works Biggers made in response to works in the museum’s storied collection. With all these recent high-profile public installations and ongoing institutional support, collectors can expect the demand for the artist’s work on the primary and secondary markets to continue to soar.

Explore more works by Sanford Biggers.

Kaylie Felsberg
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019