New Market Level for Female Artists

Joan Mitchell, "Untitled" (Image, Christie's)

Joan Mitchell, "Untitled" (Image, Christie's)

What is the first name that comes to mind when you think of American abstract expressionists? Pollock? De Kooning? Maybe it should be Mitchell instead. Joan Mitchell produced large, boldly colored paintings and prints throughout a career that spanned from the late 1940s through the early 1990s. In June, two of her paintings sold at Art Basel for $14 million each, just a month after a $16.6 million record was set by another of her paintings at Christie’s sale of Post-war and Contemporary Art in New York.

Is the market for female modern artists finally starting to gain traction, reversing decades of undervaluation? Historically under-recognized and under-priced, female artists still lag behind their male contemporaries in all categories—from old masters to modernists. But institutions and collectors are beginning to pay greater attention to the work of female artists. Recently, top museums, such as the Tate Modern and the Uffizi are presenting more shows focused on female artists. Galleries exhibiting at art fairs like Art Basel are making the decision to exhibit more female artists’ work. And for the Venice Biennale 2019, four participating countries have already chosen to be represented by female artists.

If you have long valued the work of female artists in general, if you already own the work of one or more female artists, or if the name of a female artist is the first that pops to mind when you think of American abstract expressionists, then the fact that women have contributed many noteworthy works of exceptional quality will not be news to you. However, if you’re not familiar with many (or any) female artists, I encourage you to LOOK, LEARN, and COLLECT: that is, spend some time looking at the works, learn all you can about the works and the artists who created them, and then make an investment in owning examples you can enjoy for a lifetime.

My short list recommendations of artists to look at and learn about would include Hannah Hoch, Barbara Hepworth, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Agnes Martin, and Louise Bourgeois. For further recommendations and advice about jumping into the market for female artists, please be in touch.

Elise Arnoult Miller