The term “blue chip” connotes a different price level in American art than it does in a more expensive category like Impressionist and Modern art.
Between 2005 and 2009 only two works exceeded $10 million at American sales. Yet the category still has its obvious stalwarts, and the most recent addition to their ranks is Milton Avery.[private_subscriber][private_bundle]
Fig. 6 rates artists based on the results of the American sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s from 2005 to 2009. It shows not only that Avery ranked 6th in terms of total sales, but that his work appeared more than that of any other artist. Moreover, while such a high volume of work could diminish the demand for his Expressionistic paintings, Avery had the third lowest buy-in rate among artists with at least one lot sold in each year since 2005.
Demand for Avery’s works appears unfazed by the higher prices his work has recently achieved. As Fig. 7 shows, Avery’s high prices, total sales and average prices have increased signifi cantly over the past five years: An average price for his work rose from $65,606 in 2005 to $187,564 in 2009—a 185% increase. Even in 2009’s deflated market, Avery’s work excelled, achieving heights almost akin to his levels in the heady days of 2007. The same cannot be said of other “blue-chip” artists whose lot volume and average prices have been comparable to Avery’s since 2005 (Fig. 8).
Thomas Hart Benton may have excelled last year, but in 2008 he performed well below his 2005 levels. Avery, meanwhile, has outdone his 2005 levels in almost all of the past four years. It is probably only a matter of time before his later work starts being poached for postwar and contemporary sales. [/private_subscriber][/private_bundle]