Richard Prince’s Nurse Paintings Have Been a Mainstay of the Market
“That market has been ready to crack for a long time,” a senior auction house specialist said late last week while casting a glance toward one of the two Nurse paintings on offer in the Contemporary art sales.
No single body of work has better tracked the recent levitation of the art market better than the Nurse paintings. In London last month, Dude Ranch Nurse #2 (left) sold for $5.5 million, a let-down considering the rapid upward arc of prices. Had the financial markets not collapsed, the painting might have made $8 million or more . That was surely the consignor’s hope. But since the owner had bought it a mere 18 months earlier for $2.5 million, no will feel sorry for the consignor’s “loss.”
Jennifer Stockman, president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, is parting with “Pine House (Rooms for Rent),” a 1994 painting by the Scottish-born artist Peter Doig. “Talk about timing,” Ms. Stockman said of the consignment. She said she secured a guarantee, so “it became almost impossible not to take advantage of the sale.”
Ms. Stockman’s guarantee from Christie’s includes other works she is selling as well, including one of Richard Prince’s nurse paintings, Last Resort Nurse, from 2003, which is expected to fetch $5 million to $7 million. “It was now or never,” Ms. Stockman said. “This will enable us to collect more. I’m in it for the long term.”
The fissures in the Prince market that began to appear last month will likely split open in a more dramatic way in the Contemporary sales because Lake Resort Nurse is going up against Everglades Nurse at Sotheby’s with a slightly more demur estimate in the $4-6 million range. The question is whether the market for Nurse paintings has reset with the financial markets. Dude Ranch Nurse #2 sold for 35% less than would have been expected before the credit freeze. That tracks neatly with the slide in the world’s equity markets. But it also may have been an “oversold” condition, as they say in the stock market.