Matthew Wong, Adrian Ghenie Top 21st Century Art in May Sales

Young, diverse group of artists grab market share in New York auctions

The usual suspects—Monet, Warhol and Picasso—dominated the overall market share for the May sales in New York. But when we segment the market into Impressionist & Modern, Post-War & Contemporary and 21st Century art, many more artists begin to appear center stage. 

The first thing that becomes noticeable when we peer past the dominant names is that market share narrows to fewer and fewer artist names over time. The top 25 artists account for more than 96% of the value of the Impressionist and Modern category. A different top 25 artists makes up more than 82% of the Post-War and Contemporary category. In 21st Century art, a much smaller category by value (only 10% of the total sale cycle value), we see 25 artists capturing 68% of the value. This is what is meant to happen as time establishes artists who will have continuing relevance either because of art history or popularity. 

Working our way backwards in time, the 21st Century art category put Matthew Wong on top with 6.5% market share and a total of $17.1 million in sales. Those sales comprised 5 paintings, one of which set a new record price for the artist, that averaged out to $3.4 million per painting. Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie, who also set a new record for his work in May, was second with 6.2% market share for $16.5 million in sales. Though the four works sold had an average price of $4.1 million, none were sold for hammer ratios that indicated strong demand for the artist. More Ghenie will be sold in Hong Kong later this week.

Mark Grotjahn’s market has been dormant recently. A strong sale in the first Macklowe auction might have rekindled some interest. Two more works in the second Macklowe sale plus an additional four works on the market. Altogether, they made $13.4 million which was enough to give Grotjahn third place in the 21st Century market share table with 5.1% of the market. Cy Twombly’s output spans the category divisions LiveArt uses so his 21st Century work had 4.7% market share. David Hockney has a similar story with his 21st Century work accounting for 4.3% of the dollars spent. Single works by Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin made just around the turn of the 21st Century were valuable enough to give each artist a high place in the market share tally. Likewise, Wayne Thiebaud had enough work from late in his career to sell in these auctions giving him 3.7% market share for 21st Century work. That amounted to $9.7 million spread across four paintings (one 21st Century work had been withdrawn) for an average price for his 21st Century work at $2.4 million. That’s impressive considering his most valued works were previously from early in his career. 

Working our way down the list we get to artists whose primary output has been during the last 20 years. That includes George Condo who had 3.4% share of the 21st Century art market with seven works making $9.1 million for an average price of $1.3 million. Shara Hughes was right behind with  3.1% of the market. Nine of her works sold for $8.1 million which averages to $900k per work. Only one of the nine works sold for a price within the estimate range. All eight others made prices that were above estimates. That one that sold for a new record price for the artist at $2.9m made a price that was nearly five times the estimate. 

Despite having works withdrawn from the sales, Banksy was still able to post 2.4% market share. This reflected the sales of two works for prices at our about the estimate level. In contrast, Julie Mehretu’s work is rare to the market but three works sold in May for a total of $6.2 million and averaging slightly more than $2 million. Notably, one day sale painting was listed at $300k but sold for $1 million hammer, or triple the estimate.  

Damien Hirst only had three works in the sales but for the first time in quite some time, he was able to see demand out-pacing supply. In Sotheby’s, The Now sale Hirst had a work sell for more than double the estimate. An inexpensive painting went for 3.5 times the estimate which helped make $6.6 million in sales for the artist’s work. 

Even though her market has been strong previous to these sales, there seems to be caution among owners of Cecily Brown’s work. Only one of her abstract paintings made it into the New York sales. That work was bid slightly above the estimates to give her a total of $5.9 million. 

Avery Singer made a splash with the $5.2 million sale of Happening to establish a new record price for the artist. Two smaller day sale works helped push her total to 2.1% market share.  

Christina Quarles had only one work in the sales but what a work it was. Night Fell Upon Us Up On Us sold for six times the estimate to make $4.5 million, far more than any other Quarles had sold for at auction. Jeff Koons had only two 21st Century works in the sales but they made $3.9 million earning him 1.5% market share. Anna Weyant’s big debut in US auctions also garnered $3.9 million across four works that averaged $976k. Maria Berrio put up nearly identical numbers but she was off by $100k. By all expectations, the market for Amoako Boafo’s work should be tapering off at this point. Nevertheless, two of the three works sold in New York went for prices that were more than twice the estimate. For Lisa Yuskavage, these sales were some kind of deja vu. One of her works tied the record price set 15 years ago. Another work sold for almost the same price it made 11 years ago.  

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