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Carl Andre
Steel-magnesium Plain
1969
$903,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Lee Bontecou
Untitled
1960
$847,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Louise Bourgeois
Spider IV
1996
$1,128,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Maurizio Cattelan
Not Afraid of Love
2000
$2,751,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Richard Diebenkorn
Untitled (Ocean Park)
1987
$1,408,000
Sotheby's New York
May 12, 2004



Dan Flavin
Untitled (Monument for V. Tatlin)
1964-65
$735,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Ralph Goings
Blue Chip
1969
$321,100
Christie's New York
May 15, 2003



Alex Katz
Blue Umbrella #2
1972
$666,000
Christie's New York
Nov. 15, 2001



Ellsworth Kelly
Red Blue Green
1962
$545,100
Christie's New York
Nov. 11, 2004



Jeff Koons
Bracelet
1995-98
$2,248,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Brice Marden
10 (Dialog 2)
1987-88
$2,472,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 12, 2003



Robert Motherwell
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 71
1961
$2,919,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Richard Pettibone
Three Flags (Jasper Johns)
1971
$354,700
Christie's New York
Nov. 11, 2004



Jack Pierson
Fuck You
1998
$197,900
Christie's New York
Nov. 11, 2004



Edward Ruscha
Damage
1964
$3,591,500
Christie's New York
May 11, 2004



Mark Tansey
The Key
1984
$1,240,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Wayne Thiebaud
Meringue Mix
1999
$701,900
Christie's New York
Nov. 11, 2004



David Salle
Improvisor
1989
$299,200
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Matthew Barney
Cremaster 5: A Dance for the Queen's Menagerie
1997
$400,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Richard Estes
34th Street, Manhattan, Looking East
1982
$568,000
Sotheby's New York
May 12, 2004



Richard Estes
34th Street, Manhattan, Looking East
1982
$568,000
Sotheby's New York
May 12, 2004



Keith Haring
Untitled
1987
€519,000 ($630,619)
Villa Grisebach Auktionen
June 11, 2004



Bruce Nauman
Henry Moore Bound to Fail
1967
$9,906,000
Christie's New York
May 17, 2001



Elizabeth Peyton
Matthew
1997
£89,150 ($135,899)
Christie's London
June 27, 2002



Robert Rauschenberg
Monk
1955
$2,919,500
Christie's New York
May 11, 2004



James Rosenquist
Air Hammer
1962
$512,000
Sotheby's New York
May 12, 2004



Jenny Saville
Factor 8
1992
$400,000
Sotheby's New York
Nov. 9, 2004



Frank Stella
Slieve Roe
1964
$926,400
Phillips, de Pury & Co.
May 13, 2004



Cy Twombly
Untitled (Rome)
1971
$5,383,500
Christie's New York
Nov. 10, 2004



Ross Bleckner
Unknown Quantities of Light (Part V)
1988
$96,000
Phillips, de Pury & Co.
May 14, 2004



Duane Hanson
Old Man Playing Solitaire
1973
bought in
Christie's New York
May 12, 2004


Art Market Guide 2004
by Richard Polsky


In the spirit of Vanity Fair, here's a year-end list on how some of the most widely collected artists performed at auction in 2004 -- who's up, who's down and who has maintained the status quo, plus a prediction on how they'll do in 2005. All artists are listed in alphabetical order within their respective categories.

UP
Carl Andre -- A somewhat overlooked sculptor who finally saw one of his great "Plains" works bring a serious price -- $903,500. Andre's work isn't easy. It's also hard to display in a home setting. Still, this is a major sculptor who will continue to gradually go up in value -- the innovators always do.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Lee Bontecou -- This former 1960s cult artist finally went mainstream in 2004, hitting a high of $847,500 at auction. Unprecedented museum exposure combined with massive press coverage were the recipe for her success. One caveat: her recent auction results place her in the "great" artist category -- perhaps it's a little early for that conclusion.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Louise Bourgeois -- As evidenced by the million-dollar success of one of her highly regarded bronze "Spiders," Bourgeois's collecting base continues to expand. Despite producing weak drawings and an uneven body of sculpture, her market still has plenty of traction.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Alexander Calder -- The surest bet around. Anyone interested in art purely as an investment should stick with Calder. While there's always some variation in how the "Mobiles" do at auction, his small "Standing Mobiles" and "Stabiles" always go over estimate -- even when the estimates aren't the usual tease.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Maurizio Cattelan -- If there's an artist who performed better at auction during 2004, I'd like to know. The second appearance of The Ninth Hour -- Cattelan's provocative sculpture of the Pope felled by a meteorite -- and the sale of the shroud-covered elephant, Not Afraid of Love, established Cattelan as a multimillion-dollar threat every time an important work comes up to auction.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

John Currin -- A quirky market. It's hard to say what makes a great Currin painting versus just a good one. Still, the demand for his work far exceeds what is available. Rumors that S.I. Newhouse paid over $1 million in a private transaction for a Currin certainly didn't hurt matters.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Willem de Kooning -- One runs out of superlatives to describe de Kooning's work -- and market. Prime 1950s paintings rarely come up. Ditto for the 1960s. The 1970s "Landscapes" remain undervalued. As for the late work from the 1980s, the jury's still out as to its significance (though young abstract painters find much to admire in it). Maybe the excellent new biography, De Kooning: An American Master, will shed some light on that misunderstood body of work.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Richard Diebenkorn -- Not only are "Ocean Park" canvases million-dollar paintings at auction, but now you can add the "Ocean Parks" on paper -- two beauties brought $1.4 million this year, more than doubling their 2003 levels. Paintings from his other distinctive periods also performed well.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Marlene Dumas -- This year's auction darling. Her outrageous prices for awkwardly painted (to the point of looking unfinished) figures continues to amaze veteran auction watchers. At over a million dollars for a "good" painting, surely collectors have options.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Dan Flavin -- Talk about a monster year at auction. In 2004, Flavin finally got his due, with an incredible installation at Dia:Beacon and an extensive new monograph on his work. Look for even more fireworks next year.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Sam Francis -- The Francis market is ripe for a move. After years of sloppy estate management, which created the illusion that his market was flooded with works, the estate finally closed its doors. Though Francis was prolific, collectors will soon begin to realize that there is less work available than previously thought.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Tom Friedman -- One of the more original artists working today, Friedman has now come into his own at auction, with his obsessive hand-made works regularly topping $100,000. Best of all, his market still has a long ways to go.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Ralph Goings -- Continued to show steady gains in 2004. Even though his art doesn't garner the attention given to works by Chuck Close, Richard Estes or even Charles Bell, his "slice of America" imagery makes him the Photorealist to watch. Besides, he's by far the least expensive of the group.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Damien Hirst -- The much publicized $20-million sale of Hirst's art objects and paintings from his Pharmacy restaurant was only the latest news from this continually growing market phenomenon. Just when you think you've heard the last of him, Hirst continues to challenge the viewer with fresh provocative work. History and the market tend to treat those artists well.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Alex Katz -- Katz's work certainly looks better at PaceWildenstein than it ever did at Marlborough. Apparently, the auction market agrees. Though it's hard to envision a major painting of his climbing into the million-dollar range, never underestimate a gallery's (or dealer consortium's) ability to make a market.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Ellsworth Kelly -- Kelly's canvases continue to find ready buyers. In today's market, his works on paper, in particular the "Plant" drawings, are also finding takers at new price levels. That, coupled with the $545,100 auction price brought by a spectacular but small (13 x 11 in.) red, blue, and green canvas, shows just how fanatical his collectors are.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Mike Kelley -- Though his stuffed animal works and pen and ink drawings are hard to classify, they've suddenly been getting a lot of play. Personally, I think Kelley is more interesting conceptually than visually -- but I'm not the one who's been doing the buying.
Outlook for 2005 Status quo

Jeff Koons -- The emergence of Koons' new million-dollar market for paintings is as off-the-wall as the work itself. You can understand his need to hire artisans to fabricate porcelain and wooden figures. But I draw the line when it comes to jobbing out an artist's paintings. Something has to give.
Outlook for 2005: Sculpture, status quo; paintings, down

Brice Marden -- A painter who has had the perfect career, Marden may also have the perfect market as well. His work is so difficult to acquire on the primary scene that collectors willingly pay a premium to buy a painting or drawing at auction.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Agnes Martin -- With her recent passing, Martin's work, which was never easy to come by, will only become more dear. Simultaneously, her historical stature will continue to grow.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Barry McGee -- Operating out of San Francisco, McGee attracted a local underground following that has recently spilled over onto the national scene. Everything that appeared at auction sold above estimate. His memorable faces, painted on canvas as well as bottles, stay with the viewer -- but somehow don't feel lasting.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Joan Mitchell -- Mitchell had another big year at auction in 2004. Now that her estate has chosen a representative (Cheim & Read), look for a further tightening of supply. Her pastels may be the answer for price-conscious fans.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Robert Motherwell -- A forgotten figure who had a good year in the market, as indicated by the $2.9 million paid at auction for an early "Elegy." Motherwell's painting/collage works on paper still have a ways to go, pricewise.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Yoshitomo Nara -- A poor man's Murakami, Nara has plenty of ready buyers for his cartoon figures. Yet, this smacks of being a speculative market. Not to be mean, but the work reads as a "one-liner."
Outlook for 2005: Down

Richard Pettibone -- The art-market surprise of the year. When his appropriation of Jasper Johns's famous Three Flags soared to $354,700, it elevated Pettibone from a minor figure to one to be watched. His miniature paintings, done in homage to the masters of the 1960s, may ultimately lead to being the one others pay homage to in the future.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Jack Pierson -- Despite the fact that his works usually went over estimate in 2004, the obviousness of the art (in both materials and content) will eventually hurt it. Thanks to Ruscha, language is "in" right now (see Richard Prince, Chris Wool, etc.).
Outlook for 2005: Down

Richard Prince -- His "Joke" paintings are no longer a joke at auction. In 2004, Prince was one of the biggest surprises, registering huge gains. It's hard to say what's driving his prices, but when an artist's work jumps this quickly, speculators tend to cash out and move on to their next target.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Mark Rothko -- It was another year of record-setting prices for Rothko, though prices for works on paper have cooled a bit. At his best, Rothko achieved true greatness as an artist. But just like Picasso, not everything he did was great. At his current price level, Rothko collectors will become more discerning.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Ed Ruscha -- An artist whose market could do no wrong in 2004. The multimillion-dollar prices for rare canvases from the 1960s are understandable and well deserved. Ditto for the prices of his "Ribbon Letter" drawings. But when his mediocre paintings from the 1980s suddenly bring $700,000-$1 million, you have to wonder.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Mark Tansey -- 2004 will go down as the year that Tansey became a market star. Between his inaugural show at Gagosian and his first million-dollar picture at auction, he's become a mid-career artist to be reckoned with. Besides, the work's compelling intellectual content gives the critics something to write about.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Wayne Thiebaud -- A brilliant year at auction. When a recent small (ca. 14 x 11 in.) "Pie" painting brought $701,900, the bar was raised yet again for Thiebaud. However, at these prices, you have to wonder how much gas is left in the tank.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Tom Wesselmann -- Even before the artist's recent death, this year saw a strong surge in Wesslemann prices, especially for the small canvases from the 1960s and 1970s. Despite subject matter that is off-putting to some collectors, his work continues to look better -- with the exception of the laser cut-outs, which continue to diminish.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Christopher Wool -- His stark black stenciled letters on white enamel seem to have struck a chord with collectors as they continue to climb higher at auction. In order to continue rising in value, Wool needs to produce other bodies of work with the same resonance -- so far he hasn't.
Outlook for 2005: Status Quo

David Salle -- Here's an artist whose prices have been depressed for so long that they could only go one place -- up. If you believe in the work, Salle just might be a good investment. There are plenty of paintings available, so finding quality examples shouldn't be a problem.
Outlook for 2005: Up

STATUS QUO
Francis Bacon -- Not much in the way of first-rate paintings appeared at auction. One senses that the sky's the limit for a great Bacon -- but only for a great one.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Matthew Barney -- As someone who doesn't fully understand the appeal of Barney's work, it's hard for me to comment on his market. Yet, all evidence points to the fact that he consistently sells well at auction and is likely to continue to do so.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Jean-Michel Basquiat -- There's still plenty of interest in Basquiat and a semi-limited supply. His prices held up through 2004, yet buyers didn't seem to exercise much in the way of connoisseurship. This is a woefully uneven artist -- you can get burned if you don't know what you're doing.
Outlook for 2005: Paintings, status quo; drawings, up

Joseph Cornell -- The auction market is still waiting for the first truly great Cornell (say, a "Medici" box) to finally appear. Until that happens, you will continue to see basic boxes hover in the $100,000-$150,000 range. The collages edge up slightly each year.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Jim Dine -- Nothing much going on here. Dine continues to have a loyal following for his trademark "Hearts" and "Robes." I just don't see him appealing to a new group of younger collectors in the future.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Richard Estes -- Call him Mr. Consistent. You can always count on one of his pictures to bring $350,000-$550,000 at auction. As the premier working Photorealist, his work continues to set the pace for other painters of that genre.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Eric Fischl -- Another artist whose market was not tested this year, due to a lack of material. Love him or hate him, Fischl is part of art history. As a result, major paintings will continue to do well.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Robert Gober -- Gober was essentially missing in action during 2004. Virtually nothing came up for sale, befitting an artist whose current major work is allegedly only offered to institutions.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Andreas Gursky -- A photographer still very much followed and collected, but whose prices shot up so rapidly that they didn't leave much room for growth. Like most photographers, the multiples aspect of the work somewhat limits their price ceiling.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Keith Haring -- Overall, Haring had a solid year. Yet, despite prices in the mid-six figures for a large painting, his place in art history is far from assured.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

David Hockney -- One of our ten finest living painters. Due to a lack of paintings, he had an uneventful year at auction. His pen and ink and colored pencil drawings remain the "Matisse" drawings of the future.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Jasper Johns -- The sale of the magnificent drawing, O Through 9, raised the bar for Johns works on paper. However, the dearth of major paintings at auction didn't provide his market with a fair test. Johns remains a national treasure and America's greatest living artist -- if not the world's.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Donald Judd -- Judd's singular achievement continues to look stronger with the passing of time. However, his classic "Stacks" and "Progressions" seem to have found their price range, for now. The "Single Stacks" and "Swiss" pieces (candy boxes) represent the best current values.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Roy Lichtenstein -- His prices are stuck in neutral, but that can be attributed to lack of material at auction, not lack of demand for the work. Sculpture performed particularly well this year. If a few major works from the 1960s appear in 2005, watch out. Other than Calder, Lichtenstein's the surest investment out there.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Takashi Murakami -- Although Murakami still brings amazing prices, you're now starting to see the occasional work pass at auction. This is a textbook example of an unproven painter whose prices got ahead of themselves.
Outlook for 2005: Down

Bruce Nauman -- After years of growth, the Nauman market appears to be consolidating. In 2001, when the classic Nauman sculpture Henry Moore Bound to Fail brought almost $9.9 million, it established new parameters for his prices. Those parameters aren't likely to be tested any time soon.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Claes Oldenburg -- Once again, another artist who had very little in the way of high-end work come up for sale. Oldenburg continues to be one of the most successful creators of public sculpture. His drawings are stand-outs. And his early plaster and burlap 1960s works from the "Store" will always have a market.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Elizabeth Peyton -- A figure painter with just enough fluid paint handling and wit to pull off what's really very ordinary imagery. The auction market certainly likes her work, especially on paper.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Robert Rauschenberg -- There was only one minor "major" Rauschenberg that came up this year, Monk, an intimate "Combine" that netted $2.9 million. Other than that, nothing of any real consequence appeared, making it difficult to judge where his prices are going. One clue -- his late paintings on shiny sheets of metal appear to be gathering momentum.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Gerhard Richter -- Traditionally a strong auction performer, Richter may no longer be a slam dunk for the expensive squeegee pictures from the 1960s. The late abstractions, though garish, continue to attract aggressive bidding.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

James Rosenquist -- It's a shame that more major pictures of his don't come on the auction block. If they did, you'd witness impressive results. Still, when even an average Rosenquist appears, it's usually snapped up. With the exception of the "Dolls" and "Guns," this is an artist who doesn't falter very often. His collages remain a bargain.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Susan Rothenberg -- Due to a lack of a "Horse" painting at auction, nothing out of the ordinary happened to her market this year. Unless one comes up in 2005, don't expect to see any changes next year, either. Then again, Rothenberg has always had a stronger primary market.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Julian Schnabel -- Not much going on here. Typically, an early painting goes for $250,000, but later paintings can be had for well under $100,000 (sometimes under $50,000). Opportunities still exist in his sculpture. Schnabel is such a high-profile (if inconsistent) force in the art world, that at some point, his work is bound to appreciate.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Jenny Saville -- A bona fide auction star who's already being compared favorably to Lucien Freud. Though her large-scale works are the most impressive, the medium-size pictures bring more money, proportionately speaking.
Outlook for 2005: Up

Cindy Sherman -- Not much buzz about her work this year. In some ways, she's more important as an auction-market icon than as an artist. Her work paved the way for certain photographers to be lumped in with the painters, which exponentially increased their prices (see Andreas Gursky, et al.).
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Frank Stella -- Besides the success of an early "Copper" painting, the Stella market also saw a smattering of other positive results. There's still demand for reasonable size "Concentric Squares" and "Protractors." However, the artist hasn't helped his own cause by continuing to produce work that's hard to install in homes.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Cy Twombly -- As usual, plenty of demand and not enough supply. Nowhere was that more evident than in Twombly's market for works on paper -- even the late work is bringing big money ($960,000 for a work from 1990). While Twombly prices in general have probably found their range for some time to come, that range is the acme for living abstract painters.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Andy Warhol -- Despite the significant price brought by Mustard Race Riot ($15 million) and the private sale of Superman (1960) for a rumored $22 million, most Warhols brought approximately what they did in 2003. In theory, the Warhol market peaked in May 2002 -- albeit at a very high level. Nothing wrong with that.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Rachel Whiteread -- A highly regarded sculptor on both sides of the Atlantic, she's destined to have a productive if steady career. The market particularly likes her cast resin pieces.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

DOWN
Note: During this past year, a rising tide carried almost every ship. Here are a few possible exceptions:

Ross Bleckner -- Bleckner has never been very auctionable and 2004 was no exception. There's something about his work that simply doesn't resonate with collectors who like to buy publicly. The "Bird" paintings remain his strongest series.
Outlook for 2005: Down

Felix Gonzales-Torres -- An artist who received more hype dead than he ever did alive. Initially, his market followed suit. But lately, collectors have realized that high prices weren't commensurate with the importance of his place in art history.
Outlook for 2005: Down

Duane Hanson -- This is a market that always holds promise (just ask Charles Saatchi), but never seems to happen. Last year, One Man Playing Solitaire passed and Delivery Man sold at the bottom of its low estimate. Hanson was an original when it came to making a social statement. But living with another "person" is just too unnerving for most collectors.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo

Donald Sultan -- Sultan has talent and an instantly recognizable style. That's the good news. The difficulty is that the work often seems to look like it's been done on automatic pilot. This is an artist who could some day have a stronger market, if he would only push himself in the studio.
Outlook for 2005: Status quo


RICHARD POLSKY is a private dealer in contemporary art and the author of I Bought Andy Warhol (Abrams). Questions or comments can be directed to: Polskyart@msn.com.


 
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