2019 was quite a busy year for the art market! It was marked by a few major evolutions, which were clearly visible during art fairs, auction sales, and also on the private market. The most significant one is undoubtedly the rise of a new type of commercially successful artists, who have recently become the new stars of the art world. As 2019 is drawing to a close, it is time for us to summarize this year’s greatest achievements through a list of 4 artist categories who have performed particularly well.
1) The young stars
Much as already been said about the new generation of rising auctions stars this year, whether through our articles about the new figurative scene or African-American artists. And yet, some of them have exceeded our expectations by achieving impressive commercial results at a young age. The best example might well be Michael Armitage, who signed the most outstanding auction performance with the sale of a $1.52 million piece at Sotheby’s New York last November, thus multiplying its low estimate thirty-fold, at just 35 years old!
Nicolas Party belongs to the same category. The 39-year-old Belgian artist, who recently signed with Hauser & Wirth, had an incredible year as he broke his auction record 3 times in a row. His last performance saw him cross the 1 million benchmark with a $1.12 million painting sold at Christie’s Hong-Kong last November. In the same vein, Harold Ancart also confirmed his auction prestige with the sale of a few record-breaking 6-figure paintings this year.
Last but not least, a few newcomers such as Lucas Arruda also made a groundbreaking auction debut. Indeed, the latter, who just had a critically acclaimed show at David Zwirner Gallery in New York last October, sold a $312,500 painting at Sotheby’s New York in November.
2) The rediscoveries
Young artists were not the only ones who had their our of glory this year. Indeed, 2019 was an intense year of rediscovery, as a few significant artists who had long been overlooked – most of them because they are black – finally got the recognition they deserved.
Frank Bowling and Ed Clark, two abstract artists with 6-decade long careers, were particularly honored this year. Indeed, the first had his own retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London this year while the latter joined Hauser & Wirth’s stable a few weeks before his death in October.
Both artists had a remarkable year on a commercial level, as they broke their auction records multiple times with 6-figure works.
The late Robert Colescott and Charles White also performed very well at auction. While they both had 6-figure sales this year, the latter sold a few million-dollar works this November: a $1.21 million oil on canvas and a sublime $1.76 drawing at Sotheby’s New York, which can be seen on the right.
3) Women in the spotlight
Although we are still a long way from parity in the art world, women artists had a great year in 2019. However, there is great diversity within this category; to get a clearer picture, we divided it into 3 main artist types :
First-of-all, women are overrepresented within the new generation of young rising artists. The first one we think about is Dana Schutz, who broke her auction record this year with a much talked-about monumental painting, which was acquired for $2.42 million at Sotheby’s New York last May. Other artists like Christina Quarles or Loie Hollowell, who sold works in the 6-figure range this year, also belong to this new generation or rising female artists.
The second category of women in the spotlight are mid to late-career artists such as Barbara Kruger, Mary Corse or Katharina Grosse. The first has seen her market rise again this year after a period of stagnation as she signed with David Zwirner in November. The second one was honored with a LACMA retrospective of her works, the price of which are now regularly within the 6-figure range. As for Katharina Grosse, the Gagosian protégée broke her auction record with a $497,212 painting in December.
Finally, 2019 was also a commercially successful year for late female artists such as Maria Lassnig or Lee Krasner, who both signed remarkable performances at auction. Indeed, the first broke her record with a $704,000 painting, while the latter crossed the 10 million mark with a $11.65 million work.
4) The consecrations
This category gathers already confirmed artists whose market took an important turn this year through remarkable auction results. Indeed, artists like Rashid Johnson or Yoshimoto Nara had an incredible year with works selling from 7 to 8 figures, such as Johnson’s $1.16 million Escape Collage and Nara’s $24 .96 million girl painting.
The late-career artists Pierre Soulages and Alex Katz also belong to this category, as both achieved a significant breakthrough at auction. Indeed, the first sold two remarkable 10-million paintings for the first time this year, while his much talked-about career retrospective has begun at the Louvres. As for Katz, who broke his all-time record with a $4.15 million painting in October, his prices are now regularly above the 7-figure range.