Will the Contentious Opening of a Philip Guston Show Hurt or Help the Artist’s Market? We Parsed the Auction Data to Find Out


Last week, Sotheby’s introduced that it would offer a resplendent Philip Guston abstraction all through its Fashionable artwork night sale in New York future month. The painting, which has been in the exact same assortment for four many years, carries the highest estimate at any time established for a Guston operate, $20 million to $30 million, which implies it could crack the artist’s existing record of $25.9 million, set in 2013. 

The occasion will coincide with a further momentous celebration for Guston’s work: the opening of a extensive-awaited retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston on Could 1. “Philip Guston Now,” which will go on to tour to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Tate Modern in London, was controversially postponed in 2020, amid fears from organizers that the public may object to some of Guston’s depictions of the Ku Klux Klan.

Two years on, has the controversy helped or harmed Guston’s market? We took to Artnet’s Rate Database to look into.


Table of Contents

The Context

Auction History: $25.9 million, realized at Christie’s New York in Might 2013 

Guston’s Effectiveness in 2021

Tons offered: 27

Bought in: 3

Offer-via rate: 90 per cent

Regular sale value: $1.5 million

Signify estimate: $765,356

Full gross sales: $39.4 million

Top portray price: $24.4 million

Most affordable painting rate: $312,500

Least expensive in general price tag: $1,800, for a screenprint on plexiglass, component of an edition of 125.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Around the world Company.

  1. Sharp spikes. Guston’s operates 1st cracked the $1 million mark in 1990, and given that then they have traded fingers on the auction marketplace for additional than $1 million 60 instances. Given that the ‘90s, overall income of the artist’s operate have risen and fallen in sharp peaks, largely corresponding with the offer of prime illustrations to the market place. The biggest yr for Guston’s market place so far was 2017, which noticed $48.5 million in whole gross sales across 30 a lot.
  2. Pandemic crash. As was the scenario for several artists, Guston’s sector crashed in 2020 as collectors held off from generating significant consignments, and whole product sales plummeted 82.7 per cent to their least expensive stage considering the fact that 2015. But the industry speedily bounced again in 2021, reaching $39.4 million in whole profits, its maximum amount considering the fact that 2017.
  3. Figurative flip. Guston’s mid-profession convert to figuration from abstraction hampered his marketplace for a extended time, but now Guston is best identified for his figurative paintings, composed afterwards in his job throughout the 1960s. Hauser and Wirth has represented the Guston estate given that 2015, and has labored particularly hard to encourage this later on figurative operate. Most of the artist’s latest best auction costs have reflected all those endeavours, which includes the sale of his 1976 painting Potent Light, which tripled its estimate and approached his environment document selling price when it offered for $24.4 million as section of the divorce sale of billionaire collectors Harry and Linda Macklowe past November. 
  4. Ab-Ex desire. Which is not to say there is no desire for summary will work. The painting remaining made available at Sotheby’s, Nile, dates from 1958, immediately after Guston embraced abstraction in his operate. His record was realized in 2013 when Fellini—another abstract perform from 1958 that was as soon as owned by Nelson Rockefeller—sold for $25.8 million. Through his lifetime, the Ab-Ex paintings from the 1950s have been his most in-need system of work. They are now scarce to market place due to the fact several of the handful of he painted are in museums—such as two canvases identical to Nile, which are owned by MoMA and the Whitney.
  5. Market place watchers. Above the earlier year,2,665 users have searched for Philip Guston on the Artnet Selling price Database.


Bottom Line

Guston’s work has by no means attained the significant watermarks of his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries this sort of as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. (The latter’s auction file is a lot more than double Guston’s, at $61.2 million). But a modify has been brewing in the marketplace for a although. 

Tlisted here has been a surge of interest in Guston’s oeuvre from a new era of collectors in the latest decades, which has been served alongside by the worldwide headlines encompassing his future retrospective, as effectively as the concerted promotional efforts of his gallery, Hauser and Wirth. These youthful collectors know him most effective for his far more politically-engaged figurative works, which reflect his progressive values and social conscience. In the meantime, collectors in Asia, who seem to be keeping all the market cards these times, are searching for Guston do the job from throughout the artist’s job.

The perform hitting the block at Sotheby’s is currently being presented from the esteemed collection of Dallas-primarily based philanthropists Peter and Edith O’Donnell, and is being sold to raise money for the late collectors’ charitable business. Even outside the house of the stable provenance and philanthropic ingredient, the work is effectively-put to market for a high price. It is a uncommon-to-marketplace instance of Guston’s summary do the job, which has been regularly common with older, additional set up collectors who have an understanding of Guston as a contemporary master—and may possibly be simpler to hang in their salons than some of his additional tough figuration. 

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