Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Basquiat, and Richter Lead Artists Powering the US$1 Million-Plus Market
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Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Basquiat, and Richter Lead Artists Powering the US$1 Million-Plus Market

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Sun, Dec 24, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 3 min

Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Gerhard Richter top a list of 50 artists leading the momentum for works valued at US$1 million or more, according to a report released Tuesday by Sotheby’s and ArtTactic, a London art market analysis firm.

The list ranked artists with an average of five artworks of US$1 million or more that sold each year between 2018 and 2022 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s—a methodology aimed at showing consistency. The analysis also considers sales value, liquidity, average prices, bidder confidence, and market momentum for each artist, and draws on Sotheby’s internal data on bidders and private sales.

Works by the top five artists alone made up more than a third of all US$1 million-plus sales at these top global auction houses in those years, the report said.

Shifts may be afoot, however. A “Power Rank” of top artists in the US$1 million-plus category, based on data from July 2022 to June 2023, “aims to identify artists whose markets show signs of growing momentum and interest,” the report said.

The top artists of this 12-month Power Rank are Jasper Johns, Lucian Freud, Paul Gaugin, Wassily Kandinksy, and Willem de Kooning.

“The Artists Who Power the $1 Million+ Market” is the second report by Sotheby’s and ArtTactic to explore this segment of the auction world, which proved to be “especially resilient” in 2021 and 2022, during the height of the pandemic and the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Despite representing a “small fraction” of works sold at auction, art that fetches at least US$1 million has “a tremendous impact on the market at lower levels,” the report said.

The analysis considers auction results at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s in four categories: contemporary (including Post-War), impressionist and modern, Old Masters, and Chinese works of art. The list of top 50 artists from 2018 to 2022 who are powering the US$1 million-plus sector also includes insights from Sotheby’s private sales and its bidding activity data. Though the latter information is from Sotheby’s alone, similar activity is likely taking place at other auction houses, the report said.

“We all know that the art market has never been as transparent as the financial markets, so any information we can give our clients in terms of trends, analysis, and insight will allow them to make more thoughtful and educated decisions about their purchases, whether they see them as an investment or are pursuing a passion,” Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Sotheby’s head of global business development, said during a roundtable discussion with her colleagues and ArtTactic CEO Anders Petterson that’s included in the report.

The rare insight into private-sale data revealed that works by Alberto Giacometti, in addition to Monet, Basquiat, Picasso and Warhol, made up nearly 80% of Sotheby’s private transactions in the first half of this year. From 2019 to the first half of 2023, these same artists represented only 44.7% of private sales.

Sotheby’s internal bidding data—also rare to see—shows a rise in bidding for works with estimates between US$20 million and US$50 million in the first half of this year. “Despite market uncertainty,” this lofty segment has attracted 6.1% of bidders in the market for works valued at US$1 million or more, up from 3.8% in 2022, the report said.

Nearly 75% of Sotheby’s bidders raised their paddles for works priced between US$1 million and US$5 million from 2018 to 2022, though the percentage slipped to 72.4% in the first half of the year as 13.8% of collectors bid on works valued between US$5 million and US$10 million (up from 12.5% in 2022).

ArtTactic dug deeper into this internal bidding data to understand what category of works these collectors favoured, where they live, and how old they are. The data “provides collectors with additional context to understand some of the drivers behind emerging trends,” the report said.

Among its findings: Contemporary art was favoured by 56.1% of bidders; North Americans bid the most, representing nearly 36.4% of those vying for works of US$1 million or more; and Generation X is making their mark, accounting for the largest share of bidders in the market at 40.2%.

This generational shift is significant. Younger collectors are more comfortable buying across art categories, from Old Masters to Contemporary, for instance.

“The data in the report shows that our collectors, even the youngest ones, are interested in the entire span of history,” Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s head of global fine art, said during the roundtable. “Education is such an important factor in the art market, and people are learning about art history in many different ways today.”

These younger collectors are interested in art in part because they are more exposed to it than previous generations, Lampley said. Private collectors today are exposed through the numerous art fairs they attend in addition to public auctions, which generations ago were attended more by dealers and others in the trade who then sold the works, she said.

“There has been a great effort to make people feel included in the art world and to make it accessible, both by galleries and auction houses,” Lampley said.

Notably, there are no women artists among the top five of the list of 50 powering the US$1 million-plus market, although four made the larger list. Joan Mitchell ranks No. 17, Yayoi Kusama ranks No. 19, Cecily Brown ranks No. 39, and Helen Frankenthaler ranks No. 47.



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The Loneliness of the American Worker

More meetings and faceless chats. Fewer work friends. How the modern workday is fueling an epidemic of isolation.

By TE-PING CHEN
Wed, May 29, 2024 6 min

More Americans are profoundly lonely, and the way they work—more digitally linked but less personally connected—is deepening that sense of isolation.

Nick Skarda , 29 years old, works two jobs in logistics and office administration in San Diego to keep up with his bills. After a couple of years at the logistics job, he has one friend there. He says hi to co-workers at his office job but doesn’t really know any.

“I feel sort of an emptiness or lack of belonging,” he says. Juggling two jobs leaves Skarda exhausted, with little energy or time to grab drinks with co-workers . “It makes it harder to go in and give it your all if you don’t feel like anyone is there rooting for you,” he adds.

Employers and researchers are just beginning to understand how workplace shifts over the past four years are contributing to what the U.S. surgeon general declared a loneliness health epidemic last year. The alienation affects remote and in-person workers alike. Among 1-800-Flowers.com ’s 5,000 hybrid and fully on-site employees, for instance, the most popular community chat group offered by a company mental-health provider is simply called “Loneliness.”

Consider these phenomena of modern work:

It is a marked shift from even a decade ago, when bonds fostered at work helped compensate for declining participation in church , community groups and other social institutions. As the American workday becomes more faceless and scheduled , the number of U.S. adults who call themselves lonely has climbed to 58% from 46% in 2018, according to a recent Cigna poll of 10,000 Americans.

The faceless workday

The disconnection is driving up staff turnover and worker absences, making it a business issue for more employers, executives and researchers say. Cigna, the health-insurance company, estimates that loneliness is costing companies $154 billion a year in absenteeism alone.

“Work is social, it’s a lot more than a paycheck,” says James McCann , founder and chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com.

Earlier this year, 1-800-Flowers.com moved from three days in the office to four to boost a sense of connectivity among workers. It has also begun tapping workers across teams to serve as designated hosts during lunchtime, encouraging people to sit with colleagues they don’t know in common areas and chat, and suggesting conversation topics.

While today’s workers have more ways to connect than ever, “there are only so many memes and jokes you can send over Slack,” says Maëlle Gavet , chief executive of Techstars, a pre-seed fund that has invested in 4,100 startups. “We tend to have more and more people with back-to-back calendars, more meetings and less connections.”

Gavet says that is especially the case for hybrid workers on in-office days, which they tend to use to dash from one meeting to the next.

Paradoxically, meetings can make people feel lonelier—and even more so if the meetings are virtual, behavioural researchers say. A 2023 survey by employee experience and analytics company Perceptyx found people who described themselves as “very lonely” tended to have heavier meeting loads than less-lonely staffers. More than 40% of those people spent more than half their work hours in meetings.

In Cincinnati, Kelly Roehm says she came to chafe at the meetings—sometimes as many as 12—consuming her day after joining a consulting company in 2021. She would often feel her eyes glazing over as she multitasked on other screens.

“It’s like you’re a zombie, there but not there,” says Roehm, who lived 10 minutes from the office but worked mostly remotely because she says few colleagues typically came in. It is a more common setup as companies distribute teams across more locations: At Microsoft , 27% of the company’s teams all worked in the same location last year, compared with 61% in 2019.

She compares that experience with her time more than a decade ago at a company now owned by AstraZeneca . There, she enjoyed lots of social outlets at work: a Weight Watchers group and a lunchtime crochet club.

“Now if I were to think about asking, ‘Hey, do you want to participate in something like this,’ it would just sound weird,” says Roehm, who left this year to focus on her own career-consulting business. “There wasn’t that emotional attachment that made it difficult to say, it’s time to move on.”

The power of small talk

Office chitchat, sometimes an unwanted distraction, seems to provide more benefits than many people realise, says Jessica Methot , an associate professor at Rutgers University who studies social ties at work.

In a study of 100 employees at different workplaces, Methot and fellow researchers surveyed participants at points throughout the day. They found those who had engaged in small talk reported less stress and more positivity toward co-workers.

Even exchanging pleasantries with a co-worker you barely know can help, says Sarah Wright , an associate professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury who studies worker loneliness.

“We used to think loneliness has to be overcome by developing meaningful relationships and having that degree of intimacy,” Wright says. “More and more, though, we’re seeing it’s these day-to-day weak ties and frequency of [interactions] with people that matters.”

Such interactions are substantially harder to replicate in a virtual environment. “The default now is, I have to schedule time with you, even if it’s five minutes, instead of just picking up the phone,” says Katie Tyson , president of Hive Brands, an online food retailer founded in 2020 as a fully remote company.

The frictions add up, she says. Last fall, the company added an office in New York where employees voluntarily gather a couple of times a week to foster more cohesion.

Coming to the office, even on a hybrid basis, tends to yield a roughly 20% to 30% boost in serendipitous connections, according to Syndezo, which analysed survey data and email and messaging traffic from more than two dozen large companies.

Yet there are diminishing returns to time in person, says Philip Arkcoll , founder of Worklytics, which analyses workforce data for Fortune 500 companies. Coming in once a month provides a significant boost in ties; two or three times a month adds a little more, Worklytics data show. Once or twice a week results in a smaller increase, though, and working in-person four or five days a week makes almost no difference.

A business priority

Ernst & Young has asked managers to use the first five minutes of team calls to engage in conversation “as real human beings,” says Frank Giampietro , whose title, chief well-being officer for the Americas, was created in 2021 to help support employees during the pandemic.

The professional-services firm is also training employees to spot and reach out to co-workers struggling with issues such as isolation. To date, more than 1,600 employees have taken the training.

One challenge is that American workers have sacrificed connection for productivity, says Julie Rice , co-founder of fitness chain SoulCycle. These days, with more business contacts preferring video calls, she finds breakfast meetings and coffee dates on her calendar have been replaced with Zoom. Though efficient, such video calls are less likely to yield conversations that can turn into useful professional connections or lasting friendships, she says.

Julie Rice says that her work schedule, once packed with coffees and in-person meetups, is now an avalanche of Zooms. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER GREGORY-RIVERA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Even people I’m meeting with here in New York, we’ll just Zoom,” she says.

Last year, Rice co-founded Peoplehood, a company that runs “gathers” to improve connectivity and relationship skills, and employers are signing up. One, a beauty-services business with hundreds of field employees who never see each other, asked Peoplehood to host a series of gatherings for workers to meet and share job advice. Another, a marketing company with far-flung employees, requested help after surveys showed staff wanted to feel more connected.

“Whatever relationships we had pre-Covid have sort of run out of gas,” Rice says.

Good luck prodding employees to socialise, though. Nearly all the 150-odd staff at the Pleasanton, Calif., headquarters of Shaklee, the nutrition-supplements company, used to attend annual Earth Day gatherings, which involved community service, lunch and breaking early for the day, says Jonathan Ramot , the company’s North American human-resources director. Office happy hours, bowling outings and “mix and mingles” were also robustly attended.

Now that the workforce has gone remote, last year’s Earth Day event attracted 20 staffers, even though most workers live nearby.

“We have a lot of people asking for in-person events, but when we plan them, they don’t show up,” Ramot says. “Then they complain they’re lonely.”

This past April, Shaklee instead held a mandatory get-together with the chief executive, who had relocated to Florida during the pandemic and was in town. About 100 employees gathered at a brewery for food, drinks and conversation—and no speeches from the bosses.

There was a buzz in the air, Ramot says, as staff hugged and delighted in seeing each other, some for the first time. “People were saying, I miss this,” he says.

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