The strongest price ascensions

The strongest price ascensions

Demand is sometimes so intense for artists who have the wind in their sails, so to speak, that their prices literally explode. Dozens of young artists have generated unprecedented results this year, sometimes ten times higher than expected, and sometimes yet higher! While the most spectacular price surges generally happen in New York, there have been several this past year in Hong Kong as well.

Top 5 price ascensions in New York (2020/21)

Artist Artwork Low estimate High estimate Auction result Date Auction house
1 Amy SHERALD (b. 1973) The Bathers (2015) $150,000 $200,000 $4,265,000 7. Dec. 2020 Phillips, New York
2 Flora YUKHNOVICH (b. 1990) Pretty Little Thing (2019) $60,000 $80,000 $1,179,500 24. Jun. 2021 Phillips, New York
3 Joy LABINJO (b. 1994) Visiting Great Grandma (2018) $10,000 $15,000 $189,000 8. Dec. 2020 Phillips, New York
4 Emily Mae SMITH (b. 1979) Waiting Room (2015) $40,000 $60,000 $756,000 23. Jun. 2021 Phillips, New York
5 Aboudia Abdoulaye DIARRASSOUBA (b. 1983) Noutchy dans la rue (2020) $10,000 $15,000 $187,500 12. Mar. 2021 Christie’s, New York

Amy Sherald (b. 1973)

One of the year’s strongest results goes to Amy SHERALD, the artist who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait in 2018 and who has been represented by Hauser & Wirth since then. On 7 December 2020 Phillips sold her painting The Bathers (2015) for an impressive $4.26 million, 21 times its high estimate. The canvas depicts two black women in colorful swimsuits against a blue background. Six months later Phillips hammered another mega-result for her canvas It Made Sense…Mostly In Her Mind (2011), again in New York. Estimated between $500,000 and $700,000, the work fetched over $3.5 million. These two results dwarfed the artist’s previous record of $350,000 in 2019.

Flora Yukhnovich (b. 1990)

Very strong demand was seen at Phillips New York last June for the young Flora YUKHNOVICH (in her thirties). First seen at auction this year, she has already seen the prices of her small drawings increase tenfold at Bonhams in London. But the appearance of a large “Rococo” style canvas in New York – Pretty Little Thing – prompted bidding beyond the million-dollar threshold: $1.18 million (her current record). Yukhnovich is supported by the great Victoria Miro gallery.

Joy Labinjo (b. 1994)

At 25 years old, the new star of Anglo-Nigerian figurative painting Joy LABINJO has inspired vigorous bidding at auctions. Her canvas No Wahala blithely tripled its high estimate, reaching $208,000 on 23 March last. The sale was hosted by Christie’s at the height of the spring season and broadcast live from London, Hong Kong and New York. The young painter had already featured in prestigious catalogues alongside the most popular artists of the “Black Renaissance”, including Amoako Boafo and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. At her auction debut in December 2020, her Visiting Great Grandma (2018) multiplied Phillips’ high estimate tenfold when it sold for $189,000.

Aboudia Diarrassouba (b. 1983)

Born in Ivory Coast in 1983, Aboudia Diarrassouba lives and works between Brooklyn and Abidjan. In 2014, his work was shown at the Saatchi Gallery in London in the exhibition “Pangea II: New Art From Africa and Latin America”, alongside a new generation of African and South American artists. A stronghold for the emergence of new ‘black painting’, London generates half of his auction sales; but his work has recently made its mark in American auctions, with five works each fetching over $100,000 in 2021. Among them, Noutchy dans la rue (2020) elicited bidding to 10 times its high estimate, ending at $187,000 including fees in an online Christie’s sale. Aboudia Abdoulaye DIARRASSOUBA’s current record has a similar profile: $231,000 for an untitled canvas sold by Sotheby’s London against a high estimate of $28,000…

Top 5 price ascensions in Hong Kong (2020/21)

Artist Artwork Low estimate High estimate Auction result Date Auction house
1 Emily Mae SMITH (b. 1979) Broom Life (2014) $51,548 $77,322 $1,591,544 8. Jun. 2021 Phillips & Poly, Hong Kong
2 Ronald VENTURA (b. 1973) Party animal (2017) $103,028 $154,542 $2,504,868 24. May. 2021 Christie’s, Hong Kong
3 Amoako BOAFO (b. 1984) Untitled (Two Hands) (2019) $19,352 $32,253 $338,661 3. Dec. 2020 Christie’s, Hong Kong
4 Emily Mae SMITH (b. 1979) Fool Pavilion (2015) $25,763 $51,527 $438,241 18. Jun. 2021 Sotheby’s, Hong Kong
5 Matthew WONG (1984-2019) The Birds II (2015) $19,352 $32,253 $306,407 3. Dec. 2020 Christie’s, Hong Kong

Emily Mae Smith (b. 1979)

In Hong Kong auctions, a number of new records have been hammered for non-Asian artists substantially above estimates and in what feels like a highly electric atmosphere. The prices of Ultra-Contemporary Art have become as high in Hong Kong as in London and New York. Emily Mae SMITH’s canvas Broom Life, notably, multiplied its high estimate by 20 to finish at $1.6 million. The artist’s record (recently exhibited at Perrotin in Tokyo) has therefore quadrupled in six months. In the days following the sale of Broom Life, two other Mae Smith canvases were offered, one in Hong Kong (Fool Pavilion, Sotheby’s) and the other in New York (Waiting Room, Phillips) and they both followed more or less the same price ascension.

Amoako Boafo (b. 1984)

Another young artist now selling internationally is Amoako BOAFO. On 2 December 2020 he made a sensational auction debut in Hong Kong (Christie’s) with a canvas titled Baba Diop that fetched a new personal record at $1.14 million, 10 times its low estimate. It was therefore not that surprising when the following day his drawing Untitled (Two Hands) multiplied its high estimate by ten, also at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Matthew Wong (1984-2019)

In the electric atmosphere of the same Hong Kong sale, a quarter of an hour after the bidding for Boafo’s drawing, Christie’s sold a drawing by Matthew WONG (The Birds II) for $300,000 against an estimate at around $30,000. This result reflects the frenzy aroused post-mortem by Wong’s works, whose prices just keep rising. Making his auction debut in 2020 only, his paintings have triggered passionate bidding into the millions of dollars. On 8 December, Sotheby’s offered his canvas Pink Wave in New York accompanied by a marketing blurb associating Wong’s style with that of Peter Doig and Van Gogh. These strong arguments justified a high estimate of $400,000. The pitch paid substantial dividends as “Pink Wave” reached an impressive $2.3 million. However, the best argument for this painting was that his “River at Dusk” (夕阳之河) (2018) had just been acquired (at Phillips, 5 days earlier, on 3 December) for $4.8 million against an estimate around $1 million. Both results were hammered in Hong Kong where a third of his lots are now sold.

Ronald Ventura (b. 1973)

The fourth Hong Kong price ascension was that of the Filipino Ronald VENTURA, one of Southeast Asia’s best-selling artists. The recent sale of his Party animal (2017), a large painting of anthropomorphic animals at a birthday party, raised his personal best to $2.5 million against a high estimate of $154,000. This superb result rewarded Ventura’s most monumental and powerful work to appear at auction so far.