The latest art market craze

Edward Gargiulo and his wife, Evanne, are thoughtful and intentional art collectors who have purchased works for over 30 years, beginning with vintage black and white photography before moving on to contemporary drawings and paintings centered over the past five years. years on women artists and artists. of color.

There are works by deceased artists, including Ed Clark and Lynne Mapp Drexler, and those by an older generation of living artists, such as Frank Bowling and Ming Smith, in addition to mid-career artists Julie Mehretu and Rashid Johnson. Gargiulo, managing partner at Mecox Real Estate Partners in Pacific Palisades, Calif., also buys works by recently established artists such as Torkwase Dyson, and younger ones, including 35-year-old Lauren Halsey.

Despite the depth and breadth of the Gargiulo’s collection, the couple may face the disappointment of not having gallery access to certain artists’ works. One example is Stanley Whitney, a 76-year-old black American abstract painter who was recently picked up by the megagallery Gagosian, and whose works fetch ever-higher prices on the secondary market.

“Stanley Whitney could be forever out of reach for us given where things have gone,” Edward Gargiulo said.

Their inability to secure certain pieces, even as established collectors, reveals at least one reason why prices for works by in-demand young artists or highly sought-after artists from long underrepresented groups can skyrocket. Simply put, great art can be hard to come by.

“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with the art world don’t understand how much of a collector’s job it really is to have access to it,” Gargiulo says.

Major auctions reflect this dynamic of constrained supply since prices, even for works by artists who do not seem to be very well known, reach multiples of estimate ranges. May sales at Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s in New York saw several stratospheric results for freshly created works by young ultra-contemporary artists such as Lucy Bull, 32, Lauren Quin, 30 and Anna Weyant, 27.

Lucy Bull’s 2019 Special Guest sold for $907,200 with fees, above an average pre-sale estimate of $70,000.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

bull Special guest, an oil on linen painting created in 2019, and its debut at auction, sold for $720,000 ($907,200 with fees), more than 10 times an average pre-sale estimate of $70,000, according to analysis from ArtTactic, a London-based art analysis company. Quin’s Second palm Third rod2020, sold for $240,000 ($302,400 with fees), 4.8 times the average pre-sale estimate, while Weyant’s works have all sold for multiples of their estimates.

In total, works by young contemporary artists exceeded expectations at New York sales to reach $59.3 million, up from $31.3 million the previous spring, ArtTactic said.

The work of many of these artists is very good. The “large number of artists who have emerged in recent years producing compelling or potentially compelling work” is itself “unprecedented in recent history,” says artistic advisor and curator Allan Schwartzman. But the price frenzy isn’t always about art.

A list of works sold at recent auctions ranked by price achieved would not show “a direct correlation between price and museum attention or scholarly attention – it all happens in real time,” says Schwartzman, a former chairman and co-director of Sotheby’s. fine arts department.

One of the reasons for the ultra-contemporary art mania is simply supply and demand – there aren’t enough paintings for everyone on the primary market. But the inordinate demand in the secondary market for young contemporary artists, and for black and brown artists who have long been ignored in the upper reaches of the art world, also reflects an ever-changing internet-fuelled culture on Instagram, new market collectors without gallery connections, increasing wealth in the United States and large-pocket global buyers in Asia and the Middle East, and the fact that more and more museums and other art institutions are diversifying their assets.

Auction houses have also fueled this interest with contemporary-focused auctions such as ‘The Now’ at Sotheby’s and the 21st Century sale at Christie’s.

Lucius Elliott, head of The Now evening sale at Sotheby’s in New York, says the market is also driven by the art craze of today. “Art is used in a meaningful way to come to terms with the present moment in all its complications, all its ugliness and all its beauty,” says Elliott.

Current market dynamics also offer a welcome break from a traditional system that has long elevated white male artists, says Patrizia Koenig, head of 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale at Phillips.

These “outdated ways of thinking” forced artists to go through the gallery system, garnering museum exhibitions and favorable reviews. “How the Art World Works [now] transformed,” says Koenig.

Buy one, give one

The question of meeting demand from a limited supply of works by emerging artists is not new, according to Marianne Boesky, founder of the eponymous New York gallery representing international contemporary artists.

“We manage this by prioritizing institutions and long-time supporters of our program and balancing this with our interest in developing new relationships with major collectors,” Boesky said in a written response.

Market watchers and collectors have noticed that some galleries are trying to manage the supply shortage by requiring collectors to donate a work to a museum before allowing them to buy one for themselves. Nor is this practice new or necessarily bad.

“Ideally, when a museum curator has become familiar with an artist and has taken an interest in their work, and a collector is willing to help the institution pay for an acquisition, we do our best to offer this collector a work for his own collection at the same time. moment or shortly thereafter,” Boesky said.

A Leaf is an Arrow by Lauren Quin, 2021, sold for $529,200 including fees, above an average pre-sale estimate of $60,000.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The rise of the investor-collector

Collectors often discover artists through their own research or with the help of an art advisor, by getting to know a handful of galleries and attending several exhibitions to see what an artist is before buying, explains Naomi Baigell, managing director of specialist lender TPC. Funding for art in New York. “Now if you don’t get it right away, you’re done,” says Baigell.

True art lovers who meticulously create their collections remain the key to the market. But they increasingly compete with the “investor-collector” who can afford to enter the art world, often through auctions, and can drive prices up, Baigell says.

There are also collectors who have the money to buy works by hot artists just to show them in their homes, says Evan Beard, executive vice president of private sales at, which sells shares in fine arts to retail investors.

Get on the radar screen

How do collectors, especially new ones, find out who the “hot” artists of the moment are?

Increasingly, the answer is technology. Artists themselves, as well as galleries and collectors, post frequently on Instagram, for example, with some auction houses recently preferring to post great works for sale through the app rather than through conventional channels.

“Artist market cycles are so much more accelerated because you have Instagram and digital sales,” says Beard.

Boesky says the idea of ​​hot artists emerging out of nowhere may be an outside perspective. “Often artists who have just been ‘discovered’ by the wider art world have been working and exhibiting for a while and only hit the headlines when their auction prices go crazy,” a- she declared.

What goes up can come down

The current market frenzy for emerging art is unusual, but not unprecedented.

Marek Claassen, co-founder of Limna, an artificial intelligence-based art app based in London, looks to the 1863 Salon des Refusés, which Limna uses as a starting point for the approximately 800,000 artists he follows. The salon was promoted by Emperor Napoleon III to exhibit artists such as Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne who had been refused entry to the Paris Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. But, Claassen notes, only a handful of artists from this once-emerging group are known today – “90% are forgotten, completely gone,” he says. “It will be the same with these emerging artists in vogue today.”

The cause of market fever for some artists is not one-dimensional, or necessarily unjustified, but it seems to reflect an unbalanced market for Gargiulo. Consider that the auction record for the late Cuban-American Carmen Herrera, who died aged 106 earlier this year, is less than $3 million. Meanwhile, Flora Yukhnovich, 32,
Hot, wet and wild2020, sold for £2.7 million ($3.6 million) with a fee in May at Sotheby’s in London, multiples above an average estimate of £175,000.

“These [emerging] artists are going to make works for a long time,” says Gargiulo. “Their works shouldn’t trade for much more than some of the titans of the art historical canon.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of penta magazine.

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