The Mei Moses report on the rising value of women artists pushes one data nerd's buttons.
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New Data on the Market for Female Artists
One of the key strategic initiatives at Sotheby’s over the last two years has been to tack away from the very top of the art market in favor of promoting the value of artists who have been heretofore slighted or overlooked. Building on record prices for African American artists like Sam Gilliam, Kerry James Marshall and Barkley Hendricks, as well as African artists like Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Sotheby’s sponsored a broad research project on the representation of artists of color in museums and the market that was published last September.
In the run up to another research project, this time on female artists, that Sotheby’s has sponsored, the auction house led with another data point. The Mei Moses Index, which Sotheby’s acquired in 2016, published its own study of the repeat sales of work by women artists. The initiative follows Sotheby’s head of Contemporary art Gregoire Billault’s success selling Lee Krasner’s The Eye is the first circle (1960) in May for $11.7m (est. $10m-$15m) to Emily and Mitchell Rales’s Glenstone private museum. That sale which doubled Krasner’s previous record transaction of $5.5m in 2017 was surely one of the matched pairs that would make Mei Moses’s case.
Sotheby’s intention, no doubt, was to use data to describe a savvy, prescient and even advantageous market around that sale—and the future sales of women artists. But even Sotheby’s could not have hoped to have the kind of headlines—“A New Study Has Simple Advice for Collectors Looking for Big Returns on Art: Invest In Women”—that followed.
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