LiveArt’s database of auction sales provides robust market intelligence. Here we’ve used it to screen auction results in 2022 for artists whose work is getting bid up. Many artists who experienced aggressive demand, like Albert Willem and Ann Craven, had work that sold for modest prices, even after the strong bidding. Others, like François-Xavier Lalanne and Scott Kahn, saw total auction sales in 2022 of $10 million or much more.
Overall, there were a few clear and identifiable trends in 2022 that we expect to see continue and even accelerate in 2023. Those trends are strong demand for artists who are women; revivals of forgotten or undervalued artists; big names gaining value; naive painters, surrealists and their contemporary admirers; as well as demand for a wide range of quirky Asian artists and historical Asian painters.
To identify these trends and the artists who drive them, we calculated the hammer ratios for all auction lots by artist. The hammer ratio is the final hammer price of all lots sold divided by the aggregate low estimate of all lots offered. If works don’t sell—an increasingly rare phenomenon these days—or sell below the estimates, the hammer ratio can fall below 1.00. Conversely, if works sell above the estimate range (a hammer ratio of 1.5 or above) and the artist has enough works offered during the year, we can get a sense that demand is at a higher level than sellers anticipated.
Then we removed any artist with fewer than 10 auction records, sorted by hammer ratio and looked at more than 200 artists whose work was bid above the estimates. From those 200, we could see a number of patterns or trends. The most obvious was the strong demand for work by female artists. There were some unique artists like Shara Hughes, Issy Wood and Jordi Ribes who didn’t have stylistic peers.
Women abstract painters were particularly sought after. Lauren Quin, Lucy Bull, Christine Ay Tjoe, Christina Quarles, Jadé Fadojutimi, Flora Yukhnovich and Mary Heilman are the best examples. Etel Adnan and Lynne Drexler are also strong abstract painters who were women. They fit into another category of female artists that was popular last year: historical women artists whose work is being dramatically revalued. For Adnan, that process is taking place through important museum shows. For Drexler, the market reframed her historical significance.
Elaine de Kooning, Francoise Gilot, Lynda Benglis, Louise Nevelson, Elaine Sturtevant and Barbara Kruger are just some of the historical female artists whose work was competed over aggressively last year. Barbara Hepworth is on this list too. Georgia O’Keeffe is there as well but she also points in the direction of another trend: figurative painters who were women.
Figuration has been in vogue for the better part of the last decade. But Ann Craven, Anna Weyant, Caroline Walker, Tania Marmolejo, Maria Berrio, Hilary Pecis, Cristina BanBan, Danielle Orchard, Katherine Bernhardt, Allison Zuckerman and Genieve Figgis are all painters who work in very different styles, even if they all depict something recognizable; they all saw aggressive bidding on their work last year.
Revivals and Rediscoveries
Revivals and rediscoveries played a central role in the art market too. Collectors are looking to redress past biases but also benefit from the existence of a completed—as opposed to evolving—body of work. We count nearly fifty artists whose work saw sustained bidding that could be considered revivals or rediscoveries. Ernie Barnes was among the most visible. (Scott Kahn is still working but he, too, was a poster child for this trend.) Paul Cadmus and Yves Saint Laurent were both sought after for their frank depictions of gay themes. Jules Olitski, Christian Boltanski, Sam Szafran, Wolf Kahn and Billy Al Bengston all reflect different interests but attention returned to their work last year.
A group of artists who all came of age in the 1980s, including Francesco Clemente, Sandro Chia, Donald Baechler, Carroll Dunham, Ross Bleckner, Outtara Watts and Futura, saw their work under sustained strong bidding too. This reflects a broader trend we’ve seen throughout the art market of a kind of nostalgic interest in the period.
Big Names Gaining Value
Some artists with well-established reputations whose names are quite current in the art world have also seen their markets advance in 2022. Giorgio Morandi, James Ensor, Jenny Holzer, Yves Klein, Milton Avery, Peter Halley, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Lucio Fontana, Andrew Wyeth, Mary Cassatt, Amoako Boafo and Raymond Pettibon all saw significant sales at hammer ratios above the “high” estimate level.
Naive painters like Albert Willem, David Butler, Fika Leon, Ayako Rokkaku, Andre Butzer, Jordy Kerwick and Robert Nava, among others, continue to show strong demand at auction and art fairs. Each of these artists has a style that suggests a lack of formal training even if some of the artists have the finest mainstream credentials.
Surrealism and Its Inheritors
Among historical artists, there has been an appetite for the work of Surrealists like Rene Magritte, Man Ray and Max Ernst, inheritors like Argentine artist Leonor Fini and Romanian Victor Brauner, and present-day artists working in the Surrealist vein like Louise Bonnet, Emily Mae Smith, Eileen Agar, Oli Epp, Ewa Juszkiewicz and Marcel Dzama.
Finally, the rising importance of Asian buyers to the Contemporary art market was underscored by the auction houses again in 2022. So it should come as no surprise that more and more bidders are chasing both historical Asian artists like Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, Cheong Soo Pieng, Vu Cao Dam, Utagawa Toyokuni and Francis Newton Souza and a wide array of Contemporary Asian artists who share little stylistically save a quirky sensibility.
The breakout names in this group are Ulala Imai, Atsushi Kaga and Tomozaku Matsuyama, along with the previously mentioned Ayako Rokkaku and artists like Toshijuki Konishi, Yuichi Hirako, Woo Kukwon, Hikari Shimoda, Jun Oson, Tomoko Nagai, Okokume, Stickymonger, Yusuke Hanai, Saiakunana, Kyne, Auto Moai, Yu Nagaba, Kim SunWoo, Haroshi, Meguru Yamaguchi, Suanjaya Kencut, Susumu Kamijo, Yukimasa Ida, Choi YoungWook, TIDE, Etsu Egami, Mayuka Yamamoto, Miwa Komatsu, Sadaharu Horio, Izumi Kato, EunNim Ro, Mr. Doodle, Li Chen, Chiho Aoshima, Kasing Lung, Yoshimasa Tsuchiya, LY and Chiharu Shiota.
Undoubtedly, many of these artists will lose momentum at auction. Some will see private transactions rise now that new price points have been publicly established. Others will see demand sated and sales taper off until another external event provokes interest. Surely, a new trend will emerge even as this interest in greater representation by a more inclusive range of artists continues.