“Monet’s market is bolstered and propelled by a steady stream of material coming to market,” she told Artsy. “The serial nature of some of his works is very comforting to the marketplace. Commodification has its advantages—it can provide security and confidence in a marketplace. The fact that you can see very clear trends in Monet’s market and you can benchmark pieces based on precedent and previous prices builds confidence and stimulates the market to move further and further.”
Kahlo, on the other hand, was not nearly as prolific. The artist created only around 200 paintings during her lifetime, and a sizable number of those works are either held in museum collections or are confined to Mexico due to the country’s cultural heritage laws. Mary-Anne Martin—one of the leading dealers of Latin American art who, during her tenure at Sotheby’s, was the first to preside over a Kahlo appearing at auction in 1977—once estimated there were probably about 20 pieces available to be sold outside of Mexico. As a result, Kahlo's works come to market very infrequently; the last one to sell at auction was a decade ago, going for $5.6 million at Sotheby’s.
“I can’t imagine when the next one is going to come on the market,” Zavala said. And without a steady stream of works to propel an artist’s market forward, it can lose momentum, regardless of the artist’s personal popularity. Plus, Lampley pointed out, fewer works mean fewer examples of Kahlo’s most iconic imagery.