A Buyer’s Guide to the Hottest Artists in This Year’s Venice Biennale

We delved into the markets of eight artists representing their countries at the Venice Biennale.

Hildigunnur Birgisdottir, detail of Very Large Number (2024). Photo: Vigfús Birgisson. Courtesy of Icelandic Art Centre.

The Venice Biennale is one of the art world’s most prestigious events, with each participating nation selecting an artist (or artists) to represent it and a sprawling exhibition at its center organized by an august curator. Sure, the biennale might technically be a non-commercial event, but with so much top talent on view in one place, dealers, auction specialists, collectors, and advisors are always on hand to make deals.

The main exhibition at this year’s biennale, “Foreigners Everywhere,” was curated by Adriano Pedrosa, who has included a record number of artists—331, to be exact—many of them from groups that have long been marginalized or underrepresented in both the market and museums. They may be lesser known to some who claim to be art aficionados, and their work may not have appeared on the international market in the past, but several stood out to our market experts as names to know—and buy. Below, a guide to acquiring their work beyond Venice.

artist jeffrey gibson holding a colorful patchwork blanket

Jeffrey Gibson and Sotheby’s Limited Edition Blanket. Photo: Menelik Puryear.

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972)

Representing: United States

Best known for: Vibrantly colored and patterned paintings, textiles, and objects that weave the artist’s Choctaw-Cherokee heritage with pop and club culture, queer theory, and American history

Gallery affiliation: Roberts Projects, Sikkema Jenkins, Stephen Friedman

Most wanted: Gibson’s practice spans painting and assemblage, installation, and performance. His “Everlast” (2012–16) series is perhaps the most instantly recognizable of his works. Named for the brand of punching bags on which they are modeled, these swinging sculptures showcase Indigenous craft with their hand-stitched beads, studs, and tassels, while deftly blending the mundane and the political. One example from this series, White Power (2013), set the auction record for the artist when it sold at Christie’s New York in 2015 for $233,000, more than quadrupling its low estimate, according to the Artnet Price Database.

Price points: Primary market prices have been kept quiet, but there’s been plenty of material on offer: by our count, three galleries have had Gibson solo shows since last summer, including Jessica Silverman in San Francisco, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York, and Stephen Friedman in London. At Friedman’s 2022 Frieze London booth, paintings sold for between $135,000 to $160,000, while a punching bag work sold for $300,000. Despite Gibson’s rising profile and established institutional presence, his work has yet to appear in a major evening auction, and his secondary market prices remain under $235,000, with most between four and five figures. In the lead-up to Venice, Sotheby’s released a limited-edition run of cashmere blankets by the artist, which sold for $7,500 apiece, to help fund his project.

Up next: The Venice Biennale wasn’t Gibson’s only prestigious commission this year. He has been tapped as the sixth artist to transform the Metropolitan Museum’s facade. His four sculptures, which he refers to as ancestral spirit figures, will take over its Fifth Avenue niches in September 2025, after being occupied by works by South Korean sculptor Lee Bul. (Nairy Baghramian currently holds that position.) He will also create an immersive installation that will fill MASS MoCA’s signature, football field-sized Building 5 gallery space, beginning this November. The project will be home to a series of performances by Indigenous creatives from across North America.

Also worth knowing: Gibson, 52, is the first Indigenous artist to represent the U.S. solo at the Venice Biennale.

A man leans over a table with his hands clasped. He is indoors and there is a painting on the wall behind him.

Eddie Martinez, 2024. Photo: Jason Schmidt.

Eddie Martinez (b. 1977)

Representing: Republic of San Marino

Best known for: Bright, bold, street art–inspired works that fuse art history with his own past

Gallery affiliation: Blum, Galerie Max Hetzler, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Timothy Taylor

Most wanted: Martinez, 47, has become known for his tactile, large-scale paintings that mix flattened, abstracted figures and pure color and form. Critics have invoked 20th-century greats like Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Jean-Michel Basquiat when describing his canvases. High Flying Bird (2014) set the auction record for the artist in 2019, when it sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $2 million, a whopping 774 percent over its presale estimate. The artist has also dabbled in sculpture and is a consummate draughtsman, and new three-dimensional works and works on paper will be on view alongside his paintings in Venice.

Price points: On the primary market, a small drawing starts at $12,000, and paintings sell for up to $600,000. His framed drawings were selling for $12,000 to $40,000 each at Timothy Taylor’s Frieze London booth last October, where his sketches covered the walls from floor to ceiling. Martinez also has a robust secondary market. According to the Artnet Price Database, 414 works by Martinez have come to auction, and 46 percent of those have sold for above their high estimate. His paintings range from around $100,000 to $2 million, depending on their size.

Up next: Martinez currently has a solo show on view at the Space K museum in Seoul, and he will open a solo exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum in the Hamptons in June. His first exhibition with Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin will also open in June.

portrait of artist tesfaye urgessa infront of his painting

Portrait of Tesfaye Urgessa. Photo: Kameron Cooper. Courtesy of Tesfaye Urgessa and Saatchi Yates.

Tesfaye Urgessa (b. 1983)

Representing: Ethiopia

Best known for: A striking fusion of traditional Ethiopian symbols and motifs with Neo-Expressionist painting techniques

Gallery affiliation: Addis Fine Art, Saatchi Yates

Most wanted: Urgessa’s large-scale, semi-abstract paintings depicting domestic scenes have fueled the recent surge in international attention for his work. Stoic, sinewy, and sometimes crudely segmented, the figures in these works rarely appear to feel at home despite their environs. The Addis Ababa-based artist has said that his focus on the Black body stems from his experience living as an immigrant in Germany for several years. Indeed, the psychological tension of looking and being looked at underpins his compositions—as viewers gaze into a private space, the figures inside gaze back out or to the side, but rarely at each other. A series that he continues to expand on is “No Country for Young Men,” which started as a reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis. These powerful exodus paintings depict queues of young men leaving their homes in search of a better future. The latest and largest in this series will go on view in Venice.

Price points: Saatchi Yates held a solo show of Urgessa’s work in 2021—his first in the U.K.—with paintings priced between $80,000 and $150,000. Also in 2021, Addis Fine Art sold out its booth of works on paper by the artist, all priced at £10,000 (about $13,700). The following year, Saatchi Yates showed his work in a Miami pop-up, coinciding with an exhibition of three of his works at the influential Rubell Museum, which acquired them for an undisclosed amount. Paintings currently range between $50,000 to $250,000, according to his galleries.

Up next: Saatchi Yates will present a spring exhibition of his work in London, surveying pieces created between 2022 and 2024. He is also working toward a major museum show that will be announced next year.

Also worth knowing: The 41-year-old is the first artist to represent Ethiopia at the Venice Biennale; this year marks the nation’s debut in the event.

This image is a portrait of a non-binary Asian artist Koo Jeong A.

Koo Jeong A. Photo: Kim Je Won. Courtesy of PKM Gallery.

Koo Jeong A (b. 1983)

Representing: South Korea

Best known for: Site-specific installations that reflect on the senses and encounters with the environment involving a range of media, including still and moving images, audio elements, and aromas

Gallery affiliation: Pilar Corrias, PKM Gallery, Pinksummer, and Albarrán Bourdais

What to expect: In 2012, Koo designed and built OTRO, a glow-in-the-dark skate park for the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage de l’Île de Vassivière in France. In 2016, they created a site-specific, multi-sensory installation on a disused platform in the Charing Cross Underground Station in London, as part of a co-commission from the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Art on the Underground. “Odorama Cities,” their exhibition at the Korean Pavilion, is an expansion of their practice, according to the pavilion’s curators, Jacob Fabricius and Seolhui Lee. The complex project features 17 scent experiences developed from some 600 scent memories collected from a survey of Koreans around the world, including Korean adoptees and North Korean defectors who settled in South Korea. The exhibition will feature a scent-defusing sculpture, beautiful solid-wood Möbius rings, and an engraved wooden floor among other things, the curators said.

Price points: Prices for Koo’s works are shrouded in secrecy… but also highly variable, given their various media, scale, and sometimes intangible nature. However, an auction record was set just last month at Berlin’s Grisebach GmbH with the sale of works on paper, 3 Works: Body Oral (2013), for $4,716, according to Artnet’s Price Database.

Up next: Koo will have a solo show, “EHM (Event Horizon Malmö),” at the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden. It will transform the roughly 22,000-square-foot space into “one gigantic star-shaped skateboard area titled OooOoO (2024),” according to the Venice pavilion’s curators, who are also working on the show. The artist is also having solo shows at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie and Musée du Louvre’s Jardin de Tuileries in Paris this year, solo shows at Haus der Kunst in Munich and Kunst-Werke in Berlin next year, and solo shows at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado and the Leeum Museum in Seoul in 2026.

Lap-See Lam

Lap-See Lam with dragon tail by Lu Guangzheng for ‘The Altersea Opera.’ Photo: Mattias Lindbäck/Moderna Museet.

Lap-See Lam (b. 1990)

Representing: Nordic Pavilion

Best known for: The Swedish-born artist with Hong Kong Cantonese heritage is best known for a series of expansive works that were originally generated out of her 3-D scans of Chinese restaurants in Stockholm. These works, which are connected to the artist’s personal history, evolved into large-scale multimedia narrative installations like Dreamer’s Quay, which was commissioned and first shown at the Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, Sweden, and Tales of the Altersea, shown at Portikus in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Swiss Institute in New York.

Gallery affiliation: Galerie Nordenhake

What to expect: The artist’s Venice work, developed in collaboration with the Oslo-based composer Tze Yeung Ho and the Helsinki-based textile artist Kholod Awash (who’s creating costumes), is an expansion of her previous projects. Inspired by her family’s heritage, the exhibition will transform the Nordic Pavilion in the Giardini into a fantastic space, featuring the dragon head and tail from the original Dragon Ship, a former floating Chinese restaurant in Sweden, which will bookend a bamboo scaffolding structure that will be a stage for performance and video presentations.

Price points: €10,000 to €100,000 (about $10,700 to $107,000) for works ranging from sculptures to large multimedia installations, according to Nordenhake.

Up next: Lam will be featured in exhibitions at Studio Voltaire in London and the Power Plant in Toronto in September, two yet-to-be announced institutional exhibitions in Europe and North America in 2025, and a gallery show with Galerie Nordenhake Stockholm next spring.

a woman in glass stands in an indoor room. paper and posters are taped on the wall behind her.

Hildigunnur Birgisdottir. Photo: Ólöf Kristín Helgadóttir. Courtesy of the Icelandic Art Center.

Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir (b. 1980)

Representing: Iceland

Best known for: Whimsical sculptures that playfully question materialist value and turn mundane elements of everyday life into art by teasing the limits of their functionality

Gallery affiliation: i8

Most wanted: Between 2016 and 2017, Hildigunnur created a series of small-scale bronze shelves, only a few centimeters wide, titled “Shelf for Something.” While some of the sculptures came with tiny objects to rest on the shelf, like a screw or a piece of chewed gum, others were left empty to await the creativity of their future keeper. Her 2022 series, “Untitled (T-shirt),” a limited-edition run of baseball caps embroidered with the words “I reflected on capitalism and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,” was a fan favorite.

Price points: The majority of Birgisdóttir’s works are under $10,000, according to i8 director Geneva Viralam.

Up next: An institutional solo show will be announced in the coming months, Viralam said.

Also worth knowing: Birgisdóttir’s work was included in i8’s Art Basel Miami Beach presentation last December.

The image shows a bespectacled East Asian man dressed in a violet shirt and black trousers standing in the middle of a forest.

Robert Zhao Renhui, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983)

Representing: Singapore

Best known for: Zhao is an interdisciplinary artist who explores the complex and intertwined relationship between nature and culture, working in installation, photography, video, and sculpture. His almost-prophetic presentations of eerie manipulations of natural beings in “A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World,” which he developed about a decade ago, have been widely shown and discussed.

Gallery affiliation: ShanghArt Gallery

Most wanted: His most notable series, “Christmas Island” and “The Lines We Draw,” are among his most exhibited and collected works, according to ShanghArt. His intensive research on the changing environment will be emphasized in Venice, which involves the culmination of his explorations of secondary forests in Singapore over the past seven years. Goh Chun Aik, director of ShanghArt Gallery Singapore, said that the piece will touch on “the history, zoology, and botany of the forests and long-term observations” that “are assembled into a video-sculptural installation with found objects, an extension of his ‘cabinet of curiosities’-style of presentation but in a deconstructed manner.”

Price points: His photographic works fall mainly in the range of SG$10,000 to 20,000 (about US$7,400 to $14,800), according to his gallery. The price range of installation works varies.

Up next: The artist will be featured in a presentation at ShanghArt Singapore in May. His Singapore Pavilion show will be displayed at the Singapore Art Museum in January 2025.

this image depicts a man of colour dressed in a grey suit jacket sitting at a wooden desk in a room with windows.

Yinka Shonibare. Photo: Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke. Courtesy of Nigerian Pavilion.

Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962)

Representing: Nigeria

Best known for: The London-born artist, who spent his childhood in Nigeria, questions standard definitions of cultural and national identity. “His signature material is the brightly colored ‘African’ Dutch wax batik fabric originally inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa,” dealer Stephen Friedman said. Shonibare creates a diverse range pieces, from installations to photographs, paintings, and sculptures, and his “works challenge and make us question the complicated histories of colonialism and empire,” the dealer said. Among his best-known works are Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, commissioned by Okwui Enwezor in 2002 for Documenta 11, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, which was displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London in 2010, and The British Library (2014).

Gallery affiliation: Stephen Friedman Gallery, James Cohan Gallery, and Goodman Gallery

What to expect: “Shonibare’s presentation at Venice addresses debates surrounding restitution and makes a significant contribution to the ongoing discourse,” Friedman said, adding that the work furthers the artist’s examination of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe, and their respective economic and political histories.

Price points: Since the artist works in a wide variety of mediums, materials, and sizes, his prices range from £50,000 (about $62,600) into the low millions, Friedman said.

Up next: Shonibare just opened “Suspended States” at the Serpentine Galleries, his first institutional solo show in London in more than two decades.

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