Speculators Win Big With Bets on Young Artists

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London — Three years ago, her large painting was sold in a lesser-known gallery for about $ 40,000 per piece. In 2021, one of them was resold at a Sotheby’s auction for a record $ 3.1 million. The other is hanging at a house in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak, the British Finance Minister.

Flora Yuknovich, 31, who will hold her first solo exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London on Tuesday, is one of the most popular young rising stars in the art world, and her work is a collector and speculator. ..

Matt Carrie Williams, Head of Sales for Victoria Miro, said:

The heat of the market for Yuknovich’s overflowing semi-abstract paintings is a sign of a phenomenon known as “flipping.” If the demand for a particular artist is significantly higher than the supply, the lucky artist who can get the work through the gallery can make a huge profit by offering it at auction. The gallery wants to avoid this. The bubbling resale market can make it difficult for artists to maintain a long-term career.

“The results of the auction do not affect the pricing strategies adopted for Flora’s work,” Carrie Williams said. Rejecting the interview in this article, Yuknovich has a unique painting style that dematerializes the messy subject matter of old masters into swirling colored spots. According to Carrie Williams, her latest work at the Victoria Miro show is between $ 135,000 and $ 470,000, reflecting the artist’s gallery prices “slowly and cautiously rising over the last 18 months.” Marked between ($ 100,000 and £ 350,000).

On the other hand, Yukhnovich’s auction prices have risen to another area, which only encourages more buyers to join this line.

Gambling bets on young contemporary art are higher than ever.

In 2014, works by artists under the age of 40 raised $ 181 million at auction. Last year, they sold a record $ 450 million, an increase of 275% compared to 2020, according to Artprice, which is based in France and tracks sales at international auctions. Paintings by artists such as Smith, Jacob Cassey and Oscar Murillo were turned inside out, and when the auction price exceeded $ 300,000, the eyebrows rose during the early market bubbling. Recent room prices for Yukhnovich, Matthew Wong and Avery Singer have added more numbers.

“The market has expanded since 2014,” said Wendy Cromwell, an art advisor based in New York. “There are more people and the system has a lot of money. There is competition for just a few artists, which leads to exponentially high prices.”

According to Cromwell, expensive contemporary art buyers are getting younger and younger. She added that a new wave of participants in their 40s, 30s and even 20s, enriched by heredity and the tech economy, is transforming the market. “There was an earthquake in this youth in terms of who buys the work and who distributes it,” she said.

According to a Sotheby’s year-end statement, the “influx of young and tech-savvy collectors” helped auction houses achieve record $ 7.3 billion in sales in 2021 and the number of bidders under the age of 40. Increased by 187%.

Given that the market is focused on youth and technology, it’s no wonder that Instagram is the main driver of interest in Yukhnovich’s work, as is the case with many artists today. ..

“I met Flora on Instagram, and I was definitely not alone,” said Matt Watkins, director of the Paraffin Gallery in London, which held a breakout solo exhibition of Yuknovich’s paintings in 2019. rice field. Historian Katy Hessel, with 250,000 followers on the account of a great female artist, was an early major enthusiast, as was ArtForum’s Instagram account with 1.2 million followers.

“It gave her a lot of visibility. Instagram was important,” Watkins said.

Subsequent seven-digit auction prices also drew a lot of attention to Yuknovich, as did the artist’s move to the Victoria Miro Gallery, which has an international client list and a global list of art stars.

Carrie Williams said Victoria Miro will sell Yuknovich’s work only to “collectors who are considered very confident that both the gallery and the artist will continue to buy in the long run.”

This approach reflects the tightly controlled representation of the gallery of Los Angeles-based artist Njideka Akuniri Crosby. This expression prioritizes sales to public museums in order to enhance the reputation of Crosby critics and keep out profiters. For the past six years, Victoria Miro has placed Crosby’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Washington National Museum. Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate; and other institutions. According to Artprice, recent major works by this popular artist have not been resold at auction since 2018.

“Restricting access to new works will take away the auction market. There is no momentum,” said art adviser Cromwell, and many buyers who manage to win new works by high-demand artists are sourced. You are now signing a contract that requires you to serve the gallery first. sell.

New buyers have to look further, as American and European dealers have decided to limit the sale of the most desirable young art to established collections.

Ghana in particular has become recognized as a hotspot for new talent. Last year, the work of Amoako Boafo, one of the country’s most prominent young artists, was auctioned for $ 3.4 million against a gallery price of only $ 10,000.

“It’s like never seen before,” said Victoria Cook, director of Gallery 1957, an internationally exhibited dealer representing local artists in Accra, the capital of Ghana. increase. “Even during the pandemic, there were collectors and gallerists here from Paris, the United States and the United Kingdom. Many people are going directly to the source,” she said, and the buyer was “a mixture of collectors and speculators.” I added that.

“People can come here to buy a studio and flip their work over,” Cook said. “It may seem like an exciting opportunity if you don’t have someone you can trust to advise you in other ways.”

Accra has only two major dealers who are the gatekeepers of Ghana’s talent (the other is Contemporary Art Gallery ADA), so its up-and-coming artist relies on an international auction house to turn into a rough customer. Reaching out.

In January, Philips acted as a private auctioneer, not as a public auctioneer, and hosted a 10-day sales exhibition, Birdsofa Feather, at its London headquarters. Featuring 18 recent works by six little-known young artists from Ghana, this unusual venture by an auction house to a gallery-dominated “primary market” is a group of artists based in Accra. It was held in collaboration with Artemartis. According to Philips spokeswoman Anna Chapman, all works were priced in the range of $ 4,000 to $ 12,200, but she refused to disclose details about these personal sales.

“Many people come to Ghana to work with artists,” said Selasie Gomado, founder of Artemartis, a collective dealer and manager. “We teach them the importance of contractual agreements and enable them to have a long-term and sustainable career. Artists can get a lot of attention and in the end they can do nothing. lose.”

Buyers of these affordable pieces by Philips young Ghanaian artists may or may not intend to turn them over.But Lucky people who bought Yuknovich’s work at a similar early stage in her career continue to earn cash. The paintings included in the artist’s master’s degree show in 2017 are estimated to sell as much as $ 470,000 at Christie’s on Tuesday. The next day, at Sotheby’s, the 2020 work carries a high estimate of $ 270,000.

What attracts so many people to the world of art today, like it or not, is this kind of victorious bet on young talent, as well as the art itself.

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