One highlight of the 2002 art season was the "Drawing Now" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which included about 250 drawings by 26 contemporary artists selected by curator Laura Hoptman. The show featured many of the most fashionable artists on today's global art scene, and a close look at the wall labels would have uncovered a "who's who" of top art collectors. A person wanting to dabble in the art market could do worse than follow in their footsteps.
But is it really possible? Some contemporary art galleries are famous for turning willing customers away, even those with plenty of cash to spend. But most successful artists also have an inexpensive line -- that is, they produce prints and limited-edition multiples. Here, then, is a quick survey of some of the best deals available in works by eight of the artists in "Drawing Now," artworks that can be purchased from the comfort of your desk.
One artist whose work is now at the top of the market is Elizabeth Peyton -- her auction record is over $135,000 -- but fortunately her work is available in edition form at a fraction of that cost. A litho of one of Peyton's typically vulnerable boys, Thursday (Tony) (2000), done in two colors on a silkscreened pearlescent ground, can be had at Countereditions.com for 350 (about $567) -- though the edition size of 300 is rather large. Peyton often uses British rock stars or royalty as her subjects, and the venerable New York print dealer Brooke Alexander has a color litho featuring both British princes, William and Harry, for $1,000 (edition of 350). Also available is a smaller print of a guitar-playing Elliot (1999) for $1,200, in a more attractive edition size of 80.
British artist Chris Ofili is of course famous in the U.K. for the right reasons (winning the Turner Prize) and infamous in the U.S. for the wrong ones (becoming the butt of a Rudolph Giuliani political crusade). Ofili's contribution to "Drawing Now" was a group of amusingly deadpan images of "Bros with Fros," works that are very much in line with his signature interest in contemporary black culture. Countereditions.com has an example from an earlier series, a four-color litho of an African king, called Regal (2000), priced at 350 ($567), in an edition of 300. It is even printed on a silkscreened "glow in the dark" background.
The young Los Angeles artist Laura Owens, who is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art there, is known for toying with the conventions of painting. Again, Countereditions is a good source for an inexpensive print -- here, an untitled arabesque of wildflowers on yellow and pink background, priced at 390 in an edition of 90. The magazine and editions publisher Parkett has a forest scene of a bat crossing in front of a full moon, done as a 10-color litho with three collage elements for $1,250 in an edition of 70. Another 2002 edition is published by the Los Angeles alternative space LACE, a 10 x 14 in. image of birds in a tree. Each work in the edition of 15 is a color Xerox with additional drawing or watercolor element that makes each work unique. The price is $1,600 and the edition size is 15.
An artist whose work is so complex that you need a graduate degree to understand the nuances is Matthew Ritchie, who was born in England but now lives in New York, where he is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery. His work is embedded with the signs and symbols of physics and organic chemistry, suggesting the frenzied work of a mad scientist. A quite dynamic example, titled Sea State One (2001), is offered by the SoHo alternative gallery Artists Space. The relief print, printed by Two Palms Press in an edition of 70, is $1,200 -- and comes with an artist's book.
Shahzia Sikander is known for her small drawings that resemble Indian miniatures. In fact, much of the electricity in the work of this Pakistan-born artist comes from her highly politicized mixture of Muslim and Hindu imagery, that is also appreciated for its joyful freedom of expression. Crown Point Press -- one of our better print publishers -- has a portfolio of nine color etchings, No Parking Anytime (2001), is $3,500, with some available individually for $500, in an edition of 25.
Museums in Europe and England often issue low-cost multiples in conjunction with exhibitions of contemporary artists. At the site of the Düsseldorf Kunstverein, an offset print by Richard Wright can be had for EUR 140 (edition of 50). Known for his visually disorienting but mathematically precise (and painstakingly rendered) wall paintings, Wright exhibits at Gaggosian Gallery and has been included in several museum shows. His work in "Drawing Now," many people felt, was lost in the mix and didn't do justice to his talent.
One of the fresher stars of the MoMA show was Paul Noble, the British artist who makes detailed, large-scale pencil drawings on paper of large, ironic and hugely imaginative urban landscapes. A fixture in the British scene, Noble was a co-founder of the influential "City Racing" gallery in South London ten years ago, when his own artwork took the form of highly personal cartoons and satirical games. Noble recently completed a pair of etchings with New York dealer Susan Inglett's IC Editions, one tinted lavender and the other looking slightly aged, which can be had for $2,000 each (in an edition of 30). These works can be seen on www.artline.com, the art website headquartered in Washington, D.C. Like a lot of contemporary British artists, Noble's work shows a sense of digging backwards into art history for inspiration, with abundant historical references from Hogarth to Heath-Robinson.
No matter how much you might love the piece, do not bother to ask for the Kara Walker edition issued by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin -- it sold out at the opening of her show there back in May 2002 (at Euro 150, it was a good deal). For online shoppers, the best we can offer is a visit to the Greg Kucera Gallery. Walker's Emanicipation Approximation, in an edition of 25, is about $5,000.
Now that the dust has settled on "Drawing Now," it's clear that contemporary art transcends its medium. A return to figuration and in some cases political narrative is central to much of the above work, an undoubted crowd pleaser, and, if current auction prices are any barometer, collectors also are unlikely to object to these still emerging trends.
NEIL MANSON is a native Londoner living in New York.