It may seem like Josef Albers’s market is taking off as a product of David Zwirner’s new role in the estate (with the gallery’s first show opening today.) Or you could point to Stefan Simchowitz’s “Will Pay Cash for Albers” Instagram posts. The private dealer gobbled up around $2.5m worth of Homage to the Square works in London last month.
More likely the market momentum is a product of the market mood shift toward works at a lower price point and the volume and recognizability of Albers’s work. Homage to the Square works have been selling steadily for several years now but are approaching a boiling point where the market sees a change of state.
Like Fontana’s slashes, Hirst’s spots and Richter’s abstract paintings, the Homage to the Square series ticks several important boxes for a global art buying audience. They’re abstract, recognizable and come in seemingly endless variation.
Robin Pogrebin spoke to David Leiber, the director leading Zwirner’s efforts on behalf of the estate:
“From a market point of view, as a dealer, it’s ludicrous,” he said. “There is the right number of paintings in this body of work that you can really develop a market, because he was prolific. There were 2,400 ‘Homages’ painted between 1950 and 1976, when he passed away.” […]
In the 1960s, Albers started making larger “Homage” paintings that were 48 by 48 inches. Asked why he had expanded to these dimensions — whether it had to do with the New York School’s change in the scale of abstract painting — “he said, ‘It’s when we got a station wagon,’” Mr. Leiber said.
Zwirner’s role in the market will undoubtedly have a positive effect due to the size of the gallery and its geographic reach. But the market path of Fontana and Richter suggest there’s good reason to believe there’s plenty of room left for Albers to run simply because his work fits so well with what collectors want.
Delivering Fresh Attention to Josef Albers (The New York Times)