NPR’s story on the Smithsonian’s Richard Estes retrospective reminds us that not all artists who are flipped on the market are newcomers. A quick search of Artnet shows that Estes has had eight works auctioned within five years of their creation, most for prices in the mid-six figures which puts this comment to NPR in a slightly different light:
“Often he’s putting two and three photographs together in order to create a complete image, and then basically compressing them into the compositional size and shape that he’s looking for in a finished painting,” May says.
The result is a city street you know you’ve walked on, but that doesn’t really exist. “He’ll raise the height of a building,” May says. “He’ll move a car a little bit. He’ll transpose the location of a street lamp or light post. … He composes it.”
But why doesn’t Estes just stop with the photograph? “I don’t know,” he says. “I get more money for the painting, I guess.” He laughs when he says that, but his paintings are part of some major museum collections.