Danielle Rahm has a masterly debunking without debunking, endorsement without endorsing commentary on the idea recently promoted heavily by Sotheby’s that the color red sells paintings. Though, in the case of Richter, the red work failed to outshine other works in the abstract series that have sold for more money:
In Asia, especially China, red has additional associations with luck and joy, stemming from the traditional Theory of the Five Elements, in which red corresponds with the element of fire. A “red envelope” is a monetary gift customarily given in Chinese society on special occasions and, for brides embracing their cultural roots, traditional wedding gowns are often red.
Many Contemporary art specialists, such as [Sotheby’s Alex] Brancik, believe that the cultural importance of color to the new and rapidly growing influx of Asian buyers is helping to create the sensation of red art fetching higher prices. A Chinese buyer may consider the purchase to be an auspicious investment that will bring good fortune and happiness.
Of course, in modern day society, in China and around the world, most of these customs and traditional beliefs have evaporated, making it difficult to believe that somebody would purchase a red $20 million painting because it will bring more good fortune than the blue one. And logically, that is probably true.
However, much of the psychology embedded in color theory is simply innate and inescapable. […] I would suggest that Richter, Twombly, Burri, and many other artists throughout history probably took it into consideration as well. After all, (most) artists want to sell their art, and what better color than red to draw attention, make possible patrons feel passionately -and hopefully buy quickly and impulsively. Sotheby’s must have been aware when they were placing these canvases in the viewing room that attendees would take immediate notice of the bright and primal colored canvases, inexplicably drawn in and connected to the works.