Artist Watch: Yayoi Kusama
Without a doubt, Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b.1929) has had quite a career. Kusama is the top-selling living female artist by value, and she has consistently outperformed expectations at auction since 2002.
For the last 10 years, Kusama’s average sale price has remained above the pre-sale high estimates and her works have averaged a 700% return. In November 2008, the artist’s record was set with the sale of No. 2 at Christie’s New York for US$5.8 million, which was more than US$2 million over the pre-sale high estimate. The work, part of her Infinity Nets series, pushed her into the Top 15 most expensive female artists sold at auction. Although top prices are consistently achieved for works in the Infinity Nets series, Kusama’s pumpkin paintings have realized higher returns since 2002.
2012 was an incredibly important year for the artist, at auction and beyond. Kusama’s total sales at auction reached just shy of US$25 million, surpassing levels achieved before the market crashed in 2008. The artist was also the focus of a major exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition, Yayoi Kusama, which featured works from the beginning of her career until as recently as early 2012, was incredibly well-received by art critics and museum attendees.
Art Symposium: Rising stars in the art world
The TEFAF Art Symposium 2013 will be held on Friday March 15th. The symposium will start with a review of the global art market during 2012 and highlight the two very different emerging markets of China and Brazil. It will look at their development over the last few years, focusing on why each market has come to global attention. Arts economist Dr Clare McAndrew will present the findings of the latest TEFAF Art Market Report on these issues, which will be launched in March 2013. The second theme will be 'Top performing artists: why they dominate the market and how they continue to do so'. This will be introduced by an artist and a collector and further discussed by a panel.
Please note: the symposium has ended. It is no longer possible to register.
Programme (moderator Michel Witmer)
|09.30 – 10.00
|Room 2.1 MECC Maastricht
|Registration for the symposium
|10.00 – 10.05
|Michel Witmer, American art collector
|10.05 – 10.30
|Dr Clare McAndrew, Arts Economics
The TEFAF Art Market Report 2013
The Global Art Market, with a focus on China and Brazil
|10.30 – 10.45
Director of Global Strategy artnet
|Top performing artists: why they dominate the market and how they continue to do so
|10.45 – 11.00
George Abrams, art collector and TEFAF Board member, a.o. Trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Harvard Art Museums
|The changing market for old master works of art on paper from the 1960s to today
|11.00 - 11.15
|Joana Vasconcelos, a top performing artist
How to become a top performing artist in the international art market
|11.15 – 11.40
Michel Witmer (moderator)
Panel discussion with the speakers and wrap up of the symposium
Artist Watch: Irving Penn
One of the most notable photographers of the 20th century, Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009), has consistently performed well at auction. In 2004, his sell-through rate was an unprecedented 100%, when he sold all 53 of his offered lots. In the years since the market crashed in 2008, he has achieved an average sell-through rate of 78%. Penn is currently ranked number four on the all-time top selling photographers list. He is surpassed only by Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, and Richard Prince. His place among these artists is all the more impressive as all three artists are actively bringing new works to the market; Sherman recently had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Gursky and Prince are represented by power-dealer Larry Gagosian.
As an investment, buying a Penn piece could be considered a wise choice. Overall returns have gone up almost 300% in the last decade alone, with his Black and White Vogue series bringing in over 400% returns in the same time frame. The Black and White and the Harlequin Dress are his two strongest series, making up five of his top 10 prices at auction. In April 2012, Black and White Vogue Cover (1950) sold for €325,083, earning a spot in the top 5 prices.
Perhaps the best argument for Penn’s success over the years is that his works are, in fact, timeless. His portraits, like that of Pablo Picasso from 1957, are intense and evocative, yet honest renditions of the subject at hand. As prominent photographer Elliott Erwitt said, “Everything he photographed…has a common denominator; you know that it was him. That signature is something rare in a photographer. Somehow you always know it’s him.”
Artist Watch: Joan Miró
30 years after his death, Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983) continues to be one of the most notable Modern artists of the last century. In 2012, the artist shattered multiple auction records. At a Christie’s auction in February of 2012, Painting Poem (1925) sold for €20,206,132, almost €10 million more than the previous record for the artist in 2008. Then, just four short months later, Peinture (Etoile Bleue) sold for €29,260,764 at Sotheby’s London, setting a new record. The same work had also set a new record for the artist in 2007, when it sold for €11,586,520 as part of the hailed collection of André Lefèvre. Miró is currently ranked number16 on the all-time top selling artists list.
In 1925, Miró began his dream paintings, which are referential but essentially Abstract compositions. “For me a form is never something abstract…it is always a sign of something. It is always a man, a bird, or something else.” Induced by hunger and hallucinations, the recurring motifs in these works can be found in the artist’s later, more mature art.
2012 was not just an important year for single works by Miró. Overall, roughly 50% of his works sold for more than the high estimate, and he maintained a sell through rate of 60%. Total sales volume was over €114 million for 2012, up from €30 million just one year prior. Some credit the sharp rise in sale prices to Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, which was a major retrospective originally organized by the collaborative efforts of the Tate Modern in London and the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.
Artist Watch: Jesús Rafael Soto
Jesús Rafael Soto (Venezuelan, 1923–2005) is best known for his large-scale, geometric sculptures and installations, which helped establish the Kinetic Art movement. Soto’s early works were based on the repetition of simple, geometric shapes, inspired by the work of Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. By the 1960s, the artist’s works became more dynamic, incorporating three-dimensional elements and optical allusions to create a sense of motion, even within two dimensional reliefs. This kinetic element was fully realized in his series Penetrables, life-size works made from flexible threads and wires that vibrate as the viewer approaches them.
Since 2003, the demand for Soto’s work steadily began to rise, though he first appeared at auction in the 1980s. This high demand has resulted in an average sale price that has steadily outperformed pre-sale high estimates, with almost 80% of sold lots exceeding their high estimate over the past 10 years. This past November marked an important event in Soto’s market. In the Sotheby’s Latin American Sale, La Scie à Métaux (The Hacksaw) sold for US$1,082,500, breaking Soto’s previous auction record set earlier in May 2012. Marking the second time one of his works broke the million dollar mark, this sale secured his position in the Top 5 Latin American artists sold in 2012. Soto’s accomplishments at auction are echoed by the success of many Contemporary Latin American artists like Beatriz Milhazes and Vik Muniz, who are rising in rank in the overall market, not just in Latin American sales.
These staggering sales statistics are drastically different than those from the mid-1980s. His early works were offered for less than US$20,000, mainly in New York sales; the majority of the works offered were bought-in or withdrawn.
Soto’s other achievements at auction include being one of the top 10 selling Latin American artists of all time and the highest selling Venezuelan artist.
Artist Watch: Gerhard Richter
December 2012 - Gerhard Richter (German, b.1932) is a preeminent post-war painter and the top-selling living artist to date. During the 2011 season, Richter generated US$200 million at auctions, with 74% of his works selling for above the high estimate. In particular, his late Abstract paintings (1991–2000) have achieved great success at auction, with two works selling for over US$20 million in the past two years.
Richter’s late paintings reveal traces of palette knives, squeegees, and other tools used to build up paint on the canvas, creating openings and rifts with an overwhelming tactile quality. They often include vibrant, acidic colors in large, carefully constructed compositions. An example of one of his late paintings is Abstraktes Bild (1992). This work sold for US$16.8 million at Sotheby’s New York in May of 2012, surpassing its pre-sale estimate of US$8–10 million. Since 2007, 18 of Richter’s paintings have fetched over US$10 million at auction, with many of them belonging to his late Abstract period. Richter has achieved a phenomenal sell through rate in the last two years, with 92% in 2011 and 91% in 2012.
Richter’s success at auction is echoed by a handful of prominent Abstract painters whose works have continued to achieve great success at auction. November 2012 sales saw new auction records set for Abstract Expressionists, including Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and Mark Rothko. Two of Rothko’s works shattered presale estimates this year, with Orange, Red, Yellow selling for US$86.8 million in May, followed by the November sale of No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue) for US$75 million. Both works had estimates set between US$35–50 million dollars, and contributed to Rothko’s artist index spiking to a new high this year.
Due to the sheer quantity of his works readily available at auction, Richter continues to hold the title of the Top-Selling Living Artist, joining the ranks of Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso in terms of value sold at auction.
TEFAF Art Market Reports
TEFAF has always been aware of its place in the wider world and in the global art market. TEFAF's annual art market reports have provided invaluable insights into how the market is performing and how it is affected by globalization and other issues. Since 2000 ten reports into a variety of different topics have been published.
To order the TEFAF art market reports and find out more, go to