Contemporary Art

Christie's Capitalizes on Simone Leigh's Market Appeal

On the heels of her Venice triumph and a strong new record set in New York, Christie's will open London evening sale with a recent work.

One of the consequences of the pandemic was the acceleration of the auction market. A small group of artists whose work is particularly in demand have now developed a global market that allows consignors to choose between New York, London and Hong Kong depending upon the consignor’s own interest in tapping into the market at the closest proximity to any trend or event. 

A good example was just announced at Christie’s for their London sales. Capitalizing on the strong demand for works by Simone Leigh, Christie’s is offering Untitled V (Anatomy of Architecture series) from 2016 in their London Evening sale on June 28th. The work comes with a £300,000 low estimate but no one could possibly take that number as real guidance for how it the work will perform. 

In the first place, there has been pent-up interest in Leigh’s work for some time now as consignors and collectors waited to see the result of Leigh’s transition from being represented by Hauser & Wirth to working with the more discreet Matthew Marks Gallery and star-turn appearance at the 2022 Venice Biennale. 

The April event did not disappoint. Leigh won the Golden Lion at Venice. Under Leigh’s guidance, the US pavilion was recast as a “1930s African palace,” Leigh told The New York Times. “It has an over-the-top Blackness that I really like.” Speaking primarily to her audience of Black women, Leigh was able to inhabit an “institutional space” without necessarily pandering to a broader public. 

The effect electrified her market. In May, Sotheby’s sold Birmingham from 2012 for $2.16 million, a price five times her previous high-water market set among a series of sales in 2020. One of the works that sold in 2020 was Untitled VI (Anatomy of Architecture series) from 2016 from the same body of work as Christie’s lot. Indeed, Christie’s sold that work for $250,000. 

Where Untitled V (Anatomy of Architecture series) will fall between the $360,000 low estimate and the $2.2 million record price (or even beyond it) is anyone’s guess. That’s what makes markets. But the ability for a consignor to tap collector demand so soon after these signal events in Leigh’s market (the triumph in Venice and the market confirmation in New York) is a feature, not a bug, of the new global marketplace. 

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