Male artists still make up the bulk of the art market, but women are doing better in terms of auction resales.
Although the price for women’s artworks at auction still lag far behind those of their male counterparts, there is one segment of the market where women are taking the lead, finds a new study from Sotheby’s Mei Moses. When it comes to works traded on the auction market, women’s prices are rising at a much faster rate than prices for works by men.
The study, published in the latest issue of the online publication In Other Words by Sotheby’s subsidiary Art Agency Partners, considers works sold more than once, comparing the price differential for art by women—in the All Art-Female index—to that of work by men—in the All Art-Male index.
Works by women remain a tiny minority of all the art sold at auction. In 2018, 92 percent of all lots and 95 percent of the total value of art sold at auction was created by men, according to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2019.
Even the priciest paintings by women, from artists including Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell, and Cecily Brown, failed to crack the list of the 100 most-expensive works of last year. And while Jenny Saville became the most expensive living female artist with the $12.4 million sale of Propped in 2018, her male counterpart, David Hockney, hit the far loftier figure of $90 million with the Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures).
Blue-chip art in general is a scarce resource. With a lot of the supply of works by established names tapped out, art collectors are having to dig deeper into art history to find works to add to their holdings. Increasingly, that pressure is bringing attention to previously unexplored niches, including undervalued women artists, who are also being rediscovered by museums and curators. And because women’s work has been overlooked for so long, there is nowhere for their market to go but up—hence recent new records for previously overlooked Abstract Expressionists Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner, or Sotheby’s promoting female Old Masters like Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (with an assist from Victoria Beckham).
Founded by NYU Stern professors Jianping Mei and David Moses in 2000, the Mei Moses Art Indices focuses solely on repeat sales, allowing users to track the price of an artwork over time. The analytic tool was acquired by Sotheby’s in 2016.