Marlene Dumas, Whose Latest Show in Venice Is Drawing Rave Reviews, Has Managed to Avoid Market Speculation. Here’s How


Marlene Dumas’s paintings seduce with their brushy surfaces and saturated colors—and then, as shortly as they draw you in, they twist the knife. The South African-born, Amsterdam-based artist’s explorations of lust, electricity, motherhood, and struggling are on screen in a breathtaking exhibition at François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the most current in a sequence of monographic exhibits that coincide with the Venice Biennale. 

Loan providers to the exhibition are a who’s who of modern-artwork electrical power-brokers. There’s Pinault, of program, but also Dallas mega-collector Howard Rachofsky Glenstone founders Mitchell and Emily Rales Bed Bath & Outside of founder Marty Eisenberg and his spouse Rebecca MoMA board chair Marie-Josée Kravis and her husband Henry and Swiss movie director Thomas Koerfer. Dumas’s seller, David Zwirner, and his wife Monica also loaned a sensitive portray, Areola (2018), from their personalized selection.

Dumas is an illustration of an artist who has accomplished substantial good results with nary a whiff of the swift-flip speculation that so frequently plagues coveted painters. For a appear beneath the hood at how specifically her market was constructed, we consulted the Artnet Value Databases. 


The Context

Auction History: $6.3 million, reached at Sotheby’s London in July 2008

Dumas’s Effectiveness in 2021

A lot sold: 28

Bought in: 11

Promote-by way of amount: 72 p.c

Regular sale price: $147,639

Suggest estimate: $155,382

Whole income: $4.1 million

Top rated painting price: $2.3 million

Most affordable painting rate: $226,131

Lowest all round price: $710, for a shade lithograph from an version of 60

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Around the globe Company.

The Appraisal

  1. Market place peak. Dumas’s secondary market peaked in 2017, the very same year she had concurrent solo museum shows at the Albertinum, Kupferstich-Kabinett, and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden. Even though most of her collectors hold onto their best paintings or market privately, 3 of her top 10 auction costs had been established that 12 months, when her do the job produced a total of approximately $16 million.
  2. Sluggish public presenting. Dumas’s finest functions not often occur up for auction—especially not above the earlier 10 years. That’s why her prime community value was set way again in 2008. The record-setting get the job done, The Customer (1995)—a portray of ladies lining up in Amsterdam’s red-mild district, rendered from behind—sold for $6.3 million. It is now on perspective at Palazzo Grassi.
  3. Mixed media. Leading paintings by Dumas may well be tricky to come by, but the artist is also a prolific printmaker. She has made digital prints in editions of 20, 60, 75, and 80 and lithographs in editions of seven, 20, 25, 50, 60, 100, and 250. She is also a devoted watercolorist and creator of works on paper her major price tag for the medium is $533,000. 
  4. At the rear of closed doorways. On the major sector, leading paintings by Dumas charge close to $2.5 million to $3 million, according to the art advisor Todd Levin. 
  5. Most desired. Dumas’s explicitly sexual paintings (think open orifices) and political function can be a harder promote at auction, but her collection of caged ladies and other feminine portraits are in high demand. The painting Cathedral (2001), a tall, skinny (but not particularly X-rated) portrait of a prostitute in Amsterdam’s red-light-weight district, fetched $4.1 million at Sotheby’s London in February 2020, just over its large estimate of $3.6 million. 
Marlene Dumas. Photo: Wim Daneels.

Marlene Dumas. Photograph: Wim Daneels.

Base Line

In just one way, it is most likely stunning that Dumas has not been issue to the very same type of speculation as her youthful figurative-painting friends. (She has seen less of her is effective promote at auction for in excess of $4 million than Matthew Wong, and Adrian Ghenie’s approximately $9 million document leaves hers in the dust.)

Portion of this may possibly be because of to watchful placement on the portion of her sellers, world-wide juggernaut David Zwirner, Frith Avenue in London, and Zeno X in Antwerp, who have bought her work to prospective buyers not likely to resell. It does not support that Dumas is a woman artist in an artwork earth that nonetheless undervalues the function of ladies (specially if they are no extended manufacturer-new to the scene). Dumas herself has also refused to bend to the will of the industry, making operate that explores the darker aspect of humanity, like terrorism and war crimes. 

Auction rates are, to some diploma, irrelevant—Dumas’s put in the pantheon is secure thanks to her all-star collector base and sturdy museum existence. If you are a flipper on the lookout to make a rapid buck, it is no question her work is not specifically attractive. But if you are seeking for a operate that reveals a high-quality artist at the peak of their powers, a painting by Dumas is a clever choice—if you can get your palms on a single. And if you can not, Dumas occurs to be one particular of the rare artists whose functions on paper are as integral to her oeuvre as her paintings (and a large amount much less high priced). 

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