Alex Katz: last chance!

[17 Feb 2023]

Only three days left to discover the major Alex Katz retrospective currently showing at the Guggenheim in New York (ends 20 February) and which has substantially accelerated the nonagenarian’s auction market.


The exhibition Alex Katz: Gathering occupies the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and an adjacent gallery. The entire space was needed to accommodate a retrospective spanning eight decades of production. There are 154 works on display including paintings, sketches, collages , prints, and cut-outs… from his earliest creations in the 1940s to the immersive and expressive landscapes of recent years.

Who is Alex Katz?

Born in 1927 to Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, Alex KATZgrew up in the St. Albans district in the borough of Queens. His mother was an avid poetry reader and his father a regular theater goer who encouraged the young Alex to draw at an early age. When he emerged as an artist in the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism dominated the American art scene, but Katz ignored the trend, forging ahead with figurative painting and producing a whole series of almost realistic portraits with strong color zones that prefigured one of the primary characteristics of Pop Art. Whether representing individuals or social groups, Katz’s portraits document a community of poets, artists, dancers, musicians and critics who animated the American avant-garde in the middle of the 20th century, notably Frank O’Hara, Robert Rauschenberg, Paul Taylor, Joe Brainard, John Ashbery, Meredith Monk, Allen Ginsberg, Mariko Mori, Bill T. Jones and Joan Jonas. He wanted to find a contemporary way of painting figuratively, more in tune with the slick aesthetics of cinema, advertising and glossy magazine images.

Alex Katz: evolution of his auction price index (copyright

How much do his works sell for?

Katz is a loner. He was not among the crowd at the Castelli gallery in the 1960s – 1980s like Jasper Johns or Andy Warhol, and his prices are a long way behind and took much longer to gain any real substance. At auction, Katz’s work crossed the million-dollar threshold for the first time in 2019 when the artist was 92. His auction record dates from the same year for a portrait of a woman under a blue umbrella – Blue Umbrella I(1972) – which fetched $4.1 million at Phillips in London.

Although that record has not been revised since, the Guggenheim exhibition has considerably stirred his auction market, with three new 7-digit results (out of eleven in total) hammered since the retrospective opened. Moreover, the number of transactions shot up last year to reach an all-time high of 266 works sold, generating over $20 million, Katz’s best-ever annual auction turnover. In 2022, the ‘Guggenheim Effect’ took Alex Katz into the world’s 100 most top-selling artists for the first time ever.

Alex Katz: annual auction turnover (copyright