Who’s the Next Market Superstar? Here Are 5 Artists to Watch at This Week’s Contemporary Art Auctions in New York

Our market experts select five artists positioned to become the talk of this month's contemporary-focused auctions in New York.

Julie Curtiss, Voyeuse (2018). Courtesy of the artist and Anton Kern.

The art world spins fast. Back in the 1990s, major auction houses still considered it taboo to offer works by living artists that had been completed less than a decade earlier. Fast forward to the 21st century, however, and the Big Three houses now hold annual auctions that are specifically built to promote fresh works, some of which have made the trip from the studio to the auction block in less than five years. During especially frothy times, it’s not unheard-of for short-term profiteers to flip a piece at auction just a few months after acquiring it on the primary market.

The art trade isn’t in a moment as overheated as the Zombie Formalism craze of 2011 through 2015. But that doesn’t mean a select few young and/or freshly appreciated artists won’t still see their works blast off into the deep space of the price galaxy this week, when Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all turn their attention toward the emerging and mid-career portions of the career spectrum. To prepare you market pros and gossip hounds for this week’s slate of contemporary sales, we’ve selected five artists with the best chance to command this particular auction conversation.


Gina Beavers, Pork Chop and Basil (2012)

Gina Beavers, <i>Pork Chop and Basil</i> (2012). Courtesy of Phillips.

Gina Beavers, Pork Chop and Basil (2012). Courtesy of Phillips.

Where It’s Offered: Phillips New York’s “New Now” sale

When: Tuesday, September 24

Estimate: $3,000 to $5,000

Why It Could Pop: Roughly two months after joining the roster of Marianne Boesky Gallery and three weeks after the curtain call of “The Life I Deserve,” her widely beloved MoMA PS1 solo exhibition, Gina Beavers looks poised to devour her current auction record of just $10,276. Measuring slightly over 16 inches by 12 inches, Pork Chop and Basil is still a full meal for fans of the artist’s super-saturated, borderline-sculptural renderings of online #FoodPorn that alludes to our multifarious appetites.

Surprisingly, only three other Beavers works have mounted the auction block to date, and only the most recent (offered in a Christie’s online sale this July) landed above its high estimate. So it won’t even take much of a feeding frenzy for collectors to chew through the old high and place this well-loved artist into a fresh price tier.


Julie Curtiss, Fruit Bowl on Fire (2015)

Julie Curtiss, <i>Fruit Bowl on Fire</i>, 2015. Courtesy of Phillips.

Julie Curtiss, Fruit Bowl on Fire, 2015. Courtesy of Phillips.

Where It’s Offered: Phillips New York’s “New Now” sale

When: Tuesday, September 24

Estimate: $4,000 to $6,000

Why It Could Pop: Julie Curtiss’s work entered the auction arena for the first time in Phillips’s 20th century and contemporary day sale in New York this May. There, her 18-by-14-inch canvas Princess catapulted over its $6,000 high estimate by 1,771 percent, landing at a premium-inclusive $106,250 (and winning Curtiss the title of “Strongest Speculation Magnet” in our recap of the Empire City’s major spring auctions). Sources say that her paintings have been moving through the private side of the secondary market at similar prices in the time since that sale, which also coincided with Curtiss’s inaugural solo exhibition at Anton Kern from late April through mid-June.

Fruit Bowl on Fire, her third work to appear at auction, may not reach quite those same heights. After all, it’s a work on paper rather than a painting on canvas, and it measures just over 12 inches by nine inches. But the piece is still likely to incinerate its conservative high estimate in a flash. And if this small drawing does rage its way to six figures, it will be time to certify Curtiss’s red-hot market as a full-on inferno.


Claudia Comte, Sculpture Object 25 (2014)

Claudia Comte,<i> Sculpture Object 25 </i>(2014). Courtesy of Phillips.

Claudia Comte, Sculpture Object 25 (2014). Courtesy of Phillips.

Where It’s Offered: Phillips New York’s “New Now” sale

When: Tuesday, September 24

Estimate: $7,000 to $10,000

Why It Could Pop: Claudia Comte is in the midst of a prolific year. Aside from installing an array of underwater concrete sculptures off the Jamaican coast, the Swiss-born, Berlin-based artist has mounted separate one-person exhibitions at Gladstone Gallery’s New York and Brussels locations (the latter is on view through late October) and will debut another solo show at König Galerie’s London site one week after this sale. Comte’s work has also attracted consistent demand at auction to date, with each of her previous six works significantly exceeding its high estimate.

With so much high-profile activity in her career of late, it seems likely that Sculpture Object 25, one of Comte’s signature chainsaw-carved woodworks, will continue the trend. If nothing else, no good dealer will allow their artist to open a new show immediately after an underwhelming auction performance, and Comte is represented by more than one of those. Combine that fact with legitimate organic appetite in the buyer base, and this piece has a very strong chance of achieving a very strong price.


Simone Leigh, Untitled (2009)

Simone Leigh, Untitled (ca. 2009). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Simone Leigh, Untitled (ca. 2009). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Where It’s Offered: Sotheby’s New York’s “Contemporary Curated” sale

When: Thursday, September 26

Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000

Why It Could Pop: For a period of time earlier this year, the artwork of Simone Leigh had seemingly taken over New York City. In April, her Hugo Boss Prize show opened at the Guggenheim, bringing large bronze sculptures to the Upper East Side. In May, similar sculptures were included in the Whitney Biennial. And then a month later, some dozen blocks up 10th Avenue from the Whitney, she unveiled Brick House, a 16-foot bronze that inaugurated a new space for outdoor sculpture on the far West Side called the High Line Plinth.

Appropriately, her market has started to shift upward, and while no monumental work has come on the block, collectors are still scrambling for smaller examples of her practice. An untitled work that went up in April at Swann Auction Galleries, a house with a department devoted to African American art, exceeded its high estimate and sold for $93,750, despite being only two feet tall—miniature compared to her epic-scaled works. That performance bodes well for this foot-and-a-half-tall work, which could easily go for much more than its $60,000 high estimate.


Loie Hollowell, Lick Lick in Orange and Blue (2015)

Loie Hollowell, Lick Lick in Orange and Blue (2015). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Loie Hollowell, Lick Lick in Orange and Blue (2015). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

Where It’s Offered: Christie’s New York’s “Postwar to Present” sale

When: Friday, September 27

Estimate: $70,000 to $100,000

Why It Could Pop: As its name suggests, the Christie’s “Postwar to Present” sale doesn’t focus solely on the ultra-contemporary, a la Phillips’s New Now sale. It’s more of a mix, with pricey works by Andy Warhol and Helen Frankenthaler lending heft to the lots by younger artists still building their markets. But one lot steers straight into the zeitgeist: Loie Hollowell’s Lick Lick in Orange and Blue, a striking neo-psychedelic painting that the 36-year-old rising star made in 2015. It debuted at the same time as her first solo show at the tiny 106 Green gallery in Brooklyn, when her large paintings were selling for just $2,500.

Since then, Hollowell gained representation from the global Pace Gallery juggernaut, and her primary-market prices have increased steadily with each show. She currently has work up at the gallery’s brand new eight-story digs in Chelsea, and each of the nine paintings in that show sold for $100,000. That makes the $70,000 to $100,000 estimate for five-foot-by-four-foot Lick Lick in Orange and Blue seem positively conservative. But with a waiting list as long as Loie Hollowell’s, expect feverish bidding from collectors shut out of the primary market to push this lot well past its high threshold.

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