Works by female artists rose up the rankings of auction sale prices last year, as collectors reassess pieces that have gone undervalued throughout art history, according to the Artnet Price Database, which tracks the prices of works sold at auction.
While male stalwarts such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Francis Bacon saw their rankings decline, female artists including Barbara Hepworth and Alice Neel jumped hundreds of places, the database found.
Value of works by late women artists soars as buyers seek to ‘rewrite history’
Private and institutional buyers are looking to “rewrite chapters in art history,” by reevaluating the works of deceased women artists, according to Artnet — a history in which paintings by women fetch only a tenth of the price of those by men, and only 1% of works in the U.K.’s National Gallery are by women.
The late painter and printmaker Joan Mitchell led the women’s rankings after her auction revenue almost doubled to $130 million last year, boosted by a landmark sale that made her the highest-selling female abstract expressionist in history. Meanwhile, the late American modern artist Lee Krasner’s revenue jumped nearly three times from $3.7 million to $9 million. Deceased women artists have been garnering more attention in the art market in recent years, Artsy wrote, as collectors and museums discuss why they were overlooked across the 20th century – while household names such as Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol thrived.
African-born artists set new records
Work by African women artists made remarkable strides in auction rankings last year — thanks in part to the vibrant growth of the African art scene, which recently welcomed new commercial spaces in countries like Nigeria and Ghana in what one art fair director described as a “visibility moment” for the continent.
It represents a long-overdue historical correction: art by Black American female artists comprised just 0.1 percent of global auction sales between 2008 and mid-2022, according to the Burns Halperin report.
Contemporary artist Julie Mehretu smashed her record in a month after Sotheby’s Americas chairman bid $10.7 million for her piece Walkers With the Dawn and Morning — the highest public price recorded by an African-born artist, according to ArtNews. Nigerian-American artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby and the late South African artist Irma Stern, both of whose work explores themes of cross-cultural identity, also ranked highly last year.
Women increasingly taking the helm of art galleries and museums
Women are also making headway in the male-dominated world of museum leadership, with several high-profile recent appointments. Last year, the Tate Modern enlisted Karin Hindsbo as its director, while the Guggenheim appointed Mariët Westermann as its director and CEO –– the first woman to lead the museum in its more than 60-year history. A 2022 survey found that among North American art institutions, the representation of female leaders had increased substantially over the previous seven years. Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum, said that the process of hiring women as directors has become easier as more women become patrons of the arts. “Women are putting their names on buildings. They’re stepping up,” she told the New York Times.