The Top 20 female artists in the global Art Market during 2018

[22 Jan 2019]

Although women account for half of the world’s population (and therefore half of the world’s intelligence, sensitivity and inspiration…), they are still substantially under-represented on the global Art Market. Looking back, women did not become a regular part of art history’s narrative until the end of the 19th century. However, today’s secondary art market is still largely dominated by men.

According to Artprice’s founder/CEO thierry Ehrmann, “the generation now imposing itself on the secondary market – that of artists under 40 – is fortunately closing the gender gap”. In 2018, the Top 5 artists (by auction turnover) born after 1978 include three women. This highly symbolic transformation of the market is being accompanied by an increasing recognition of major female signatures who are gradually being admitted into the Pantheon of the high-end Art Market, with big-number results in auction rooms.

Top 20 Female Artists by Auction Turnover in 2018

1. Yayoi KUSAMA (1929)

Auction turnover: $102,532,176

The top selling female artist in the global Art Market – all periods of creation combined – is none other than an 89-year-old Japanese woman who has spent 40 years living in a psychiatric hospital. A key figure in 20th-century art with her obsessive creative practices, Yayoi Kusama’s work is in many respects close to Art Brut.

Moreover, this is the fourth consecutive year in which Kusama has generated the highest annual auction turnover for a female artist in the world. In 2018, twenty-one of her works fetched sums above the million-dollar threshold worldwide: fifteen in Hong Kong, three in New York, two in London and one in Seoul.

2. Joan MITCHELL (1926-1992)

Auction turnover: $83,925,120

On 1 May 2018 the David Zwirner Gallery announced publicly that it now has exclusive representation rights with the Joan Mitchell Foundation. A first solo exhibition of the artist is scheduled in New York in 2019, but the Market has already reacted very positively. On 17 May 2018, her Blueberry (1969) buried its estimate of $5-7 million when it fetched $16.6 million at Christie’s in New York, setting a new auction record for the American artist.

3. Georgia O’KEEFFE (1887-1986)

Auction turnover: $66,666,700

4. Cecily BROWN (1969)

Auction turnover: $32,480,908

Following a remarkable performance in 2017, the English artist Cecily Brown emerged as one of the major figures of the Contemporary Art Market in 2018. On 16 May, her painting Suddenly Last Summer (1999) fetched $6,776,200 at Sotheby’s New York, setting an impressive new record. The canvas, originally acquired from the Gagosian in 2000, was sold in May 2010 for $1,082,500, at Sotheby’s New York. Since then its value has multiplied by six in just eight years.

5. Louise BOURGEOIS (1911-2010)

Auction turnover: $24,616,761

6. Barbara HEPWORTH (1903-1975)

Auction turnover: $19,947,414

7. Agnes MARTIN (1912-2004)

Auction turnover: $17,208,649

8. Tamara DE LEMPICKA (1898-1980)

Auction turnover: $16,382,986

9. Jenny SAVILLE (1970)

Auction turnover: $13,225,583

British artists are definitely in vogue on the Art Market. Jenny Saville (known for her participation in the Young British Artists movement) is today the most expensive living female artist in the world. A few months after David Hockney earned the same title in the male artists category, Saville saw her Propped (1992) acquired for $12.5 million at Sotheby’s in London. The price of her works has a lot to do with scarcity of supply: only 41 paintings by Jenny Saville have been auctioned in 20 years.

10. Mary CASSATT (1844-1926)

Auction turnover: $10,317,602

11. Maria Elena VIEIRA DA SILVA (1908-1992)

Auction turnover: $7,707,244

12. Bridget RILEY (1931)

Auction turnover: $7,103,990

13. Camille CLAUDEL (1864-1943)

Auction turnover: $6,996,741

14. Cindy SHERMAN (1954)

Auction turnover: $6,755,382

15. Elizabeth PEYTON (1965)

Auction turnover:$6,123,286

16. Elisabeth FRINK (1930-1993)

Auction turnover: $4,390,860

17. Christine AY TJOE (1973)

Auction turnover: $3,989,020

In 2018 the Indonesian artist Christine Ay Tjoe continued her ascent with 13 lots sold at auction and no unsolds. Since 2008, her price index has risen +1,200%.

18. Niki DE SAINT-PHALLE (1930-2002)

Auction turnover: $3,966,458

19. Njideka Akunyili CROSBY (1983)

Auction turnover: $3,868,973

The great revelation of the year 2017, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, has just finished twelve reassuring months on the auction market. Three paintings and a drawing were sold, either within or above the pre-sale estimates. The decline in supply is also good news as it suggests collectors are not expect a drop in her prices. This situation is ideal for the young painter who saw the prices of her paintings rocket after her exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery in London in October 2016.

20. Louise NEVELSON (1899-1988)

Auction turnover: $3,845,112