Yayoi Kusama Tops 2023 List of 21st-Century Artists
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Yayoi Kusama Tops 2023 List of 21st-Century Artists

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Wed, Apr 10, 2024 9:36amGrey Clock 3 min

Artworks by Yayoi Kusama collectively sold for nearly US$81 million last year at the major global auction houses, making her the top-selling 21st-century contemporary artist, according to the Hiscox Artist Top 100 report.

The boost in sales for Kusama’s works pushed David Hockney, the previous year’s top-selling artist, to second place. Hockney’s art garnered US$50.3 million in sales last year, down from US$74.7 million in 2022, said Hiscox, a London-based specialty insurer.

The second annual ranking, compiled with research and analysis from London-based ArtTactic, also showed Kusama’s No. 1 ranking was consistent with a strong showing by women artists overall last year. Joining Kusama among the top five last year was Cecily Brown, who ranked fourth with US$31.7 million in sales.

Yoshitomo Nara, ranked third with sales of US$36 million and George Condo ranked fifth with sales of US$29.5 million.

Total sales of contemporary art made after the year 2000 fell 17% to US$955 million last year from US$1.5 billion in 2022, according to the report. Though sales of contemporary art by women fell 8% to US$306 million, the number of works sold rose 21%. And sales by their male peers fell a much sharper 20%, the report said.

“The market for female artists has been much more resilient than that for male artists,” the report said.

The results go beyond ultra-contemporary art. Earlier this year, ArtTactic reported that overall sales of art by women at the major auction houses hit a record US$825.8 million last year, up 7% from a year earlier.

Another mark of progress: Art by women comprised 32% of 21st-century art auction sales last year, up from 29% in 2022, as the number of women artists behind these sales continued to climb. There were 728 women artists represented last year, up 179% from 2019, the report said.

“Contemporary female artists have always been undervalued and underrepresented,” Robert Read , head of art and private clients at Hiscox said in a news release. “Meaningful progress has been made in recent years, as the market gradually begins to recognise the importance and value of their work, but we are still some way from parity.”

Following Kusama and Brown, the top female artists by sales value were Julie Mehretu, with sales of US$21.4 million; Jadé Fadojutimi, with sales of US$8.5 million; and Jenny Saville, with sales of US$7.8 million.

The Hiscox report just examined the auction market for works created in the 21st century and sold at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. This segment was stronger than much of the art market last year, with sales still 26% above pre-pandemic levels. Sales of art made before 2000 have fallen 22% since 2019, the report said.

This segment of the market is also making up a larger share of all post-war and contemporary art sold at auctions, reaching 70% last year from 63% a year earlier.

The Hiscox report was consistent with other analyses of the art market last year that found large-ticket sales, over US$1 million, declined in favor of sales of works with price tags of US$50,000 or less.

Within the 21st-century art category, the number of lower-priced works sold gained 25% while the number sold above US$1 million fell by 12%. The trend is backed by a near doubling in the number of artists making 21st-century works that end up at auction since 2019, the report said.

The benefits of so-called flipping—or the practice of selling art made by young artists within two years of their creation—fell dramatically, bringing in US$39 million in sales last year from US$67 million in 2022. That’s despite the number of lots with this newly made art at 662 was about the same as the previous year.

Though Kusama is 95 years old, 41% of those making 21st-century art are under age 45, unsurprisingly. Leading this group of younger artists last year was: Nicolas Party, whose works sold for US$20.2 million; the late Matthew Wong, whose works sold for US$16.5 million; Fadojutimi; Caroline Walker, whose works sold for US$7.5 million; and Dmitri Cherniak, whose works sold for US$6.7 million.



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Robert Carnell, the Asia Pacific head of research at ING, said they no longer expect a rate cut this year after seeing the April data. Mr Carnell said an increase in trend inflation was apparent and “rate cuts this year look unlikely”. In the RBA’s latest monetary policy statement, published before the April CPI was released, it said: “Inflation is expected to be higher in the near term than previously thought due to the stronger labour market and higher petrol prices. But inflation is still expected to return to the target range in the second half of 2025 and to reach the midpoint in 2026.”

 

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