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The market for Richard Prince's work has seen its share of ups and downs in recent years. His most valuable works have always been the series of nurse paintings. Yet those images have had their own rocky history on the market. In July of 2008, Overseas Nurse was sold for £4.2m or nearly $8.5m on the day. Six years later, Nurse of Greenmeadows achieved that price level again.
In the interim, nurse paintings have appeared sporadically on the market. Runaway Nurse sold for a solid $6.8m in Nov. 2011 at Phillips. Five years later, Runaway Nurse #2 sold at Christie's in May for a record $9.6m. That record sale brought more nurses to market last November in New York. Aloha Nurse sold at Sotheby's for $4.73m; Nurse Elsa made $5.85m at Christie's two nights before. Both of those works sold on or around the low estimate.
That pattern seems to be a hallmark of Prince's market. Many of his series sell quite well but the prices often struggle to meet the consignor's expectations, if the estimate range is anything to go by. This suggests anticipation is often greater among owners in Prince's market than demand is among buyers.
In an attempt to understand this dynamic, we analyzed the data from the November sales in New York. (There were not enough significant sales in London recently or even at the Armory Week sales in New York.) We also looked back at the last four years of Prince's sales to see what that data might explain about Prince's market.
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