The start of 2022 has seen a boom in fine art sales. And while some of the highest priced art has been released from private collections leading to a peak in sales at the top end of the market, it’s the Ultra-Contemporary category that is growing fastest. With collectors hungrier than ever for work by new artists, we ask leading specialists from seven of our auction house partners to tell us about the “up and coming artists” they’re most excited about. Read on to learn more about these specialists and the artists they’ve chosen.
Director, African American Art | Swann Auction Galleries
Introducing: BISA BUTLER
Bisa Butler would be my choice. This contemporary fabric artist constructs strikingly and vivid depictions of heroic African American figures – her work redefines the genres of art quilts and portraiture. Butler has had an exciting debut in the contemporary art world the past two years. Last year, she had a solo exhibition, Bisa Butler: Portraits, at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second stop of a traveling exhibit which began in spring of 2020 at the Katonah Museum of Art.
Butler’s artwork has also been acquired by many private and public collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Newark Museum, The Toledo Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Swann established her current artist’s auction record with her debut at auction last year – with high demand and a long waiting list, we expect her secondary market to continue to grow.
Art Specialist | Strauss & Co
Introducing: MARY SIBANDE
There is definitely a spotlight on Mary Sibande this year, and I am all for it. Mary Sibande is best recognized for her life-size installation sculptures of her alter-ego, Sophie, who is often dressed in a large royal blue Victorian-inspired frock bearing the South African domestic workers’ uniform, which includes a white apron and ‘doek’ (head wrap). She uses this alter-ego to honor her past generations, specifically her mother, grand-mother and great grandmother who all lived and worked through Apartheid, and to explore identity as a contemporary black South African woman in post-colonial South Africa.
Sibande’s work also includes photography, performance and design. Just this year, she has multiple solo exhibitions starting with Mary Sibande: Blue Purple Red at Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, The Red Ventriloquist presented by the Musee d’art Contemporian de Lyon, The Red Flight of Fancy at SMAC Gallery, Let me tell you about red at the Durban Art Gallery and, finally, Dream Invisible Connection: Mary Sibande and Dorothy Kay – a non-selling exhibition, hosted at Strauss & co. 11 July – 12 August 2022; the exhibition looks at the connections between two important South African artists. It is also noteworthy to mention her inclusion in group shows and biennales, including the 54th Venice Biennale as part of the group presentation for the South African Pavilion entitled Desire, Narratives in Contemporary South African Art in Venice, Italy, 2011.
There have only been a handful of work by Mary Sibande on the secondary market over the past six years (11 to be exact) and these have been limited to her archival digital prints. All performed well at auction, with a number surpassing the estimates. Mary Sibande has made her mark as an important South African contemporary artist of the 21st Century and she hasn’t finished making her mark yet. I would suggest keeping a close eye on this artist as there are still big things to come.
Visit the Mary Sibande artist page and click “+ Follow This Artist” to receive alerts about new work by Sibande coming to auction.
Head of Prints & Multiples | Lyon & Turnbull
Introducing: CAROLINE WALKER
I have followed Caroline Walker since discovering her work at Ingleby Gallery in late 2020, when they exhibited her series of works of her mother, Janet. I was already aware of her starting to make a bit of a splash at auction, but this was my first exposure to her work in person.
Training at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London, Walker is now London-based. Her paintings focus on the experience of women, as seen and depicted by a woman. We are observing women and their environments, both at home and at work, undertaking labour, both appreciated and unacknowledged. The result is at once anonymous and universal, yet intensely personal and revealing; the final paintings are evocatively beautiful and moving.
Walker would be an exciting acquisition for any collection but would particularly appeal to collectors who are interested in painting and new approaches to traditional subject matters; a revision of the male artist observing women at work and leisure. The longer you spend with her paintings, the more they affect you, so spending years living with them could only bring a deeper level of connection and joy.
Walker’s work has started to achieve strong results at auction in the last two to three years, up to a maximum of over £400,000. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is currently featured in the British Art Show 9, touring the UK in 2022. I expect Walker’s star will continue to rise as she develops her practice into new locations and subjects, and more collectors discover her work. Her most recent exhibition was a series of paintings focused on her sister-in-law’s experience of new motherhood, and I am sure the market will be happy to follow her into these new evolutions of her practice.
Visit the Caroline Walker artist page and click “+ Follow This Artist” to receive alerts about new work by Walker coming to auction.
Head of Art | Leonard Joel
Introducing: JORDY KERWICK
I am most intrigued and excited by the fast paced rise of Australian artist Jordy Kerwick within the international art market. Beginning painting formally in 2016, self taught, Jordy’s career has gone from strength to strength, and all within 6 years. His first few series focused largely on small scale still life florals, with books, cassette tapes and cigarettes the ideal accompaniment. More recently, his work has expanded – literally – to showcase tigers, two-headed beasts and other fantastical creatures on a large scale.
To see a self-taught artist grow with such market vigor in a short period of time is a rare occurrence in today’s market, where talent and competition is fierce. After a series of exhibitions, group and solo, in Australia, Jordy departed his home country to reside in France. He now exhibits globally with sell out shows the new normal.
Jordy Kerwick’s first recorded auction placement was in late 2021, and he has since enjoyed a 92% sale rate at auction globally. His oil-on-paper work of a lion attacking a two-headed beast sold for €17,000 at Sotheby’s in London. As a measure of his expanding market, this record only lasted a day, with Phillips auctioning a still life piece Cool Cats 2019 selling for €82,353 before their New York outpost offered Le Tigre achieving a staggering US$220,000 (the current auction record for a work by Kerwick).
Visit the Jordy Kerwick artist page and click “+ Follow This Artist” to receive alerts about new work by Kerwick coming to auction.
Director, Post-war and Contemporary | A10 by Artmark
Ultra. Neo. Super. So many terms given by the main participants in the art market, in the attempt to define or, more precisely, to clarify the fresh vibes that contemporary art brings nowadays, thanks to the new generation of rising artists.
The wind of change could be felt from the early 2000s, but the last two years of pandemic led to an explosion in auction sales for the youngest talents. Inspired by cutting-edge technology, environmental issues, corporate work styles, and social media, these young and emerging artists are so successful because they bring to our attention issues from daily life.
Two young rising stars from our contemporary art sales are Irina Dragomir and Mihai Mureșan. These two are a curious case to study, as they come from different painting schools, Bucharest and Cluj. We are confident that by our next contemporary sale this November, work by both artists will establish new personal records. If I had to make a prediction, I anticipate that Dragomir easily will overcome €5,000 – €6,000 and Mureșan €3,000 – €4,000.
Irina’s images are fragments of her own universe. She does not militate; she does not want to moralize or attract attention. She herself is the subject of her paintings. There is a consistent playful tone and pop suggestions, but under the surface, there is always a more subtle message.
Dragomir likes to play with clichés, with triviality and cheap kitsch. I am tempted to see here not so much a postmodern process, but a clear sign of intelligence and humor. She is not afraid to use the banal and bad taste, because she is sure of her feelings. Authenticity never goes out of style.
Dragomir is currently on display with a solo show at Art Safari, the private art museum in Bucharest. We first included one of her pieces in a 2019 auction, and then she sold with 500 EUR. In a November ‘21 action, one of her pieces went for €3,500.
Search for Irina Dragomir and click “+ Follow This Keyword” to receive alerts about new work by Dragomir coming to auction.
Mihai Mureșan builds his paintings on a meticulous drawing, up to the tiniest details one can imagine. Mureșan’s main starting point in his current series is his hometown: the buildings from his neighbourhood or the interior of his studio. Surely, one can easily sense an influence and attraction in his paintings from the Flemish artists such as Van Eyck,Hans Memling, Dieric Bouts, Robert Campin, Hugo Van der Goes etc, but he continuously reshapes and reconsiders his colours and techniques, adapting them to contemporary sensibilities.
One detail made us smile. In the last artwork we auctioned – a miniature still life with vibrant flowers – he inserted a small emoticon as a smiling face of a flower (see bottom right corner of the painting).
All artworks put up for sale in our auction were sold, and although Mureșan is a recent graduate, his work already achieves hammer prices of €2,000 €3,000. He was invited to participate in last year’s Superheroes and Antiheroes Art Safari exhibition and is currently working towards a solo show.
Search for Mihai Mureșan and click “+ Follow This Keyword” to receive alerts about new work by Mureșan coming to auction.
Senior Vice President, Director of Paintings & Contemporary Art | Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers
Ryan’s work has been appearing at auctions since roughly 2010, though I feel the prices are not indicative of the true the value of his market.
Ryan is a highly respected mid-career artist with institutional representation and a laundry list of stellar exhibitions and gushing write-ups in the New York Times, Vogue, Art in America and more. I feel that Ryan’s recontextualization of symbology and semiotics has taken his work in directions, unlike others who may have similarly explored graphic design in fine art. In Ryan’s repurposing of public signage, album art, magazine layouts and skateboard graphics, he has avoided simple reappropriation and created uniquely abstracted all-over compositions that adapt known forms into pure abstraction.
There is still so much more to come for Ryan as an artist, an author and an educator, and any collection that features New York artists of the past 25 years must include his work. I am beyond excited to reveal that Doyle will be working with Ryan on some projects in the very near future.
Visit the Ryan McGinness artist page and click “+ Follow This Artist” to receive alerts about new work by McGinness coming to auction.
In 2011, I bought a copy of Despite moments of clarity, there is no ‘ism’ in this book, 100 New Artists by Francesca Gavin, which featured Sara’s work. I immediately became obsessed with Sara’s monumental sculptures and installations, her stunning photography, and the fearlessly confrontational socio-political instilled in her work and life. For the uninitiated, Louise Nevelson’s wooden assemblages are an easy jumping-off point – though Sara’s work contains a uniquely autobiographical narrative that balances the sort of transgressive attitude of Cady Noland with the more poetic and ethereal qualities of Mira Schendel. Two of Sara’s series, Flags and War, are among the most haunting works of the last 20 years. Works coming to auction have been relatively rare, though several have been offered at houses overseas and performed well. Carbon 12 is an excellent, forward-thinking gallery representing Sara in Dubai and at international fairs, though I do not believe she currently has representation in New York. A gallery would be very wise to add Sara to their roster while they still can.
Visit the Sara Rahbar artist page and click “+ Follow This Artist” to receive alerts about new work by Rahbar coming to auction.
I first saw Dennis’s work while casually walking through The Other Art Fair in Brooklyn back in 2018, and his booth stopped me in my tracks. What I found admirable was that Dennis had secured a booth with his own funds and made the trip from Nigeria solo, looking to introduce himself to the New York art world in the most DIY sense. We remained in touch following that fair, and I later introduced Dennis to GR Gallery here in New York, where he has gone on to have two sell-out exhibitions. Dennis is exhibiting during the month of July at the excellent Koenig Gallery in London, and I predict so much more for him in the near future. What excites me about Dennis is his ability to employ the sort of post-Pop Superflat aesthetic of KAWS and Takashi Murakami while imbuing the work with his own unique narrative. His figures typically wear traditional African masks – inserted into Western settings, with Mid-Century décor, like Poul Henningsen lighting – a wholly new take on a sort of Future/Primitive aesthetic that speaks to the ever-expanding global influence of art history as it overlaps and intersects with world cultures. Attending his exhibitions and seeing both seasoned, lifelong art collectors elbow-to-elbow with young people clad in Supreme gear, I am deeply impressed – though not at all surprised – by the reaction he is receiving from such a wide spectrum of collectors and enthusiasts.
Search for Dennis Osadebe and click “+ Follow This Keyword” to receive alerts about new work by Osadebe coming to auction.