Market Snapshot: Cleve Gray
Major sales suggest a bull market for the artist's erudite abstractions.
Cleve Gray, known for his gestural abstract compositions influenced by Chinese landscape painting and Eastern philosophy, is enjoying a moment. “Gray’s market is thriving,” dealer Loretta Howard told artnet News via email, “Since we started to represent the estate, we have done three exhibitions and all have been well received and sold extremely well to fine collections.”
Initially working in a Parisian-influenced late-Cubist style, by the 1960s Gray had embraced the gestural abstraction pioneered by Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko. The fact that Gray was relatively late to jump on the Ab Ex bandwagon may explain the relative affordability of his work.
Gray’s auction record was broken this May with the sale of the behemoth Rocks and Water #14 (1983) at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. The purple, white, and gold abstraction sold for $27,500 including the buyer’s premium, nearly four times the $7,000 high estimate. Each of Gray top five sales have taken place within the last two years.
According to Howard, recent interest in Gray’s work is indicative of a larger turn towards lesser-known Abstract Expressionists in response to the scarcity of major works by household names.
“As the availability of Abstract Expressionist works becomes less and less, and the prices continue to rise over time, savvy collectors look for quality painters like Cleve Gray, whose prices are affordable by comparison,” Howard said. Gray’s work, she claims, is a safer investment compared to the roller coaster market for emerging artists. “Gray was always a celebrated artist whose works are in major museum collections and he has two monographs published on his work,” Howard explains. “It is therefore an established market and ‘blue chip’ rather than speculative. The future for the Cleve Gray market is clearly going up as the work is of both great quality and value.”
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