This week in the Back Room: Maine’s market moment, Barbara Kruger’s auction ascent, European biennials barge back into the news cycle, and more—all in a 6-minute read (1,554 words).
Top of the Market
This summer, the biggest wave of east-coast art-market action isn’t making landfall in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, or any of the other seasonal haunts we’re so used to hearing about this time of year.
Instead, more and more heavy hitters have quietly begun swirling around a new regional hub: Maine. In a recent column, Katya Kazakina gave us a sandals-on-the-ground view of the art trade’s latest U.S. hotspot. Today, we’re giving you a handy need-to-know guide to what she found there, and what’s just over the horizon…
The New Maine Attractions
Over the past year, the most consequential market development in Maine has been trendsetting dealer Karma’s decision to set up its first non-New York expansion there. The space—a restored former Catholic church—is technically still owned by gallery artist Ann Craven. She originally intended to use the building as her studio before deciding it was “too grand” for that purpose, according to Karma owner Brendan Dugan. So Dugan took it over instead.
Craven and the gallery now collaborate on annual exhibitions at the outpost. This summer, they staged “Sanctuary,” which pairs abstract sculptures by American postwar artist Thaddeus Mosley (each priced around $200,000) with intimate figurative paintings by his contemporary Frank Walter (priced from $30,000 to $100,000). The program and the prices both elevate Maine’s scene to a higher level.
The nearby Center for Maine Contemporary Art (freshly expanded in 2016) currently features two shows by hotly pursued living talents, too: a solo affair by Reggie Burrows Hodges, whose paintings have ignited bidding wars at auction in the past year; and a group show of lauded Maine artists, including Craven, Katherine Bradford, and Inka Essenhigh.
Another major institutional attraction is (finally) imminent, too. The resolution of a prolonged legal battle over Robert Indiana’s estate recently cleared the way for the creation of a museum dedicated to the Pop artist, who lived on the Maine island of Vinalhaven.
These milestones have been made possible partly by “the flexibility of remote work, the ability to sell art to an international audience from a remote location, and growing cultural infrastructure in the state” since the pandemic, Katya writes. Add in a “thriving” food scene and the idyllic surroundings, and all the ingredients are in place for a must-experience fusion of art business and art pleasure.
Maine’s Rich Art History
The U.S.’s northeasternmost state may actually be overdue for the industry spotlight. Maine’s remoteness, natural wonders, and unique light have now been drawing bravura artists to settle there for close to 150 years.
The lineage starts with American landscape painter Winslow Homer, who moved to Prouts Neck in 1883. (You can see why in his solo exhibition at the Met, on view through July 31.) Realist painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth spent 25 summers in Maine, too, and his artist son Andrew and grandson Jamie continued the family tradition.
Alex Katz is another longtime state resident. His artwork donations have also bolstered the collection at Colby College, which recently acquired two coastal islands where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his best-known works.
Tiny Maine also hosts a hefty 15 artist residencies, including the prestigious post at the nearly 80-year-old Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. An even more senior residency takes place on secluded Monhegan Island, the final home of rediscovered auction darling Lynne Drexler—who may yet burnish Maine’s canonical legacy, not just post big posthumous prices.
After leaving the toxic boys’ club that was the postwar New York art world, Drexler lived and worked “in virtual obscurity” on Monhegan for the last 16 years of her life, Katya writes. Last spring, Maine’s Farnsworth Art Museum deaccessioned two of her works to help diversify its collection. The final prices shocked almost everyone: nearly $3 million together, or 18X their combined high estimates.
Drexler’s rise has been quietly building for years in the private trade. Saara Pritchard, a partner at next-generation advisory Art Intelligence Global, has been championing (and collecting) Drexler with vigor for some time. Monhegan Island’s nearly 40-year-old Lupine Gallery has been fielding an onslaught of inquiries about the artist’s work since the first auction fireworks exploded in March, too.
The flurry of demand around Drexler’s rich (and voluminous) oeuvre means that Maine is a market hotbed for artists living and dead alike. At this rate, her works won’t be the last to pull collectors, dealers, and all manner of tastemakers to the upper northeast.
The Bottom Line
Don’t expect a full-on gallery-expansion arms race to consume Maine anytime soon. So much of its allure comes from its status as a place where artists can the grind of big cities and big business. Even dealers and advisors claim to adore the laid-back, collegial vibe.
That said, it would be naive to assume that decorum and balance will be enough to dissuade more and more market players from making their presence felt in the state. If we’ve learned nothing else from the past 20 years of the art industry, we’ve learned this: when it comes to growth, too much is never enough as long as the money keeps coming in.
The latest Wet Paint will be up later today, but here’s what else made a mark around the industry since last Friday morning…
Vienna Contemporary announced the 70+ exhibitors in its upcoming eighth edition (September 8–11), when the fair moves to the neo-Renaissance Kursalon building in the city center. ()
- Abu Dhabi Art will host its largest edition yet at Manarat Al Saadiyat in November, with 78 galleries and a special section on artists from North Africa guest-curated by scholar Rachida Triki. ()
Sotheby’s will host its first live auction in Singapore in 15 years as part of a string of new moves in Asia. The modern and contemporary art sale takes place August 28 at the Regent Hotel. (Artnet News)
- An online sale of generative art at Phillips made just $715,871, less than one-quarter of its low estimate, reflecting the state of play in the crypto markets last week. (Artnet News)
Pace now represents pioneering abstract painter Virginia Jaramillo (in partnership with Hales Gallery). Pace will present her work at Frieze Seoul in September and in a solo show at its Los Angeles gallery in May 2023. ()
Lisson Gallery has appointed Theresa Liang director of its new space in Beijing, which will open in August with a solo show by Anish Kapoor. ()
- Art Intelligence Global is teaming up with fashion label Onitsuka Tiger to open the popup Tiger Gallery TM this summer at the brand’s flagship store on London’s Regent’s Street. The first show will be of Ugandan artist Godwin Champs Namuyimba. (Artnet News)
Documenta’s new managing director, Alexander Farenholtz, will defer to Ruangrupa, the curatorial collective helming the embattled quinquennial, on whether to conduct a formal review of its remaining works for antisemitic content. (Artnet News)
Thirty years after the artist’s death, PPOW has established the David Wojnarowicz Foundation along with a website (onedaythiskid.com) celebrating his work and legacy. ()
- Manifesta founder and director Hedwig Fijen formally proposed siting the biennial’s 2028 edition in Kyiv, with past and future host cities “adopting” different Ukrainian art and educational institutions to help rebuild its cultural infrastructure. (Artnet News)
NFTs and More
- Owners of works in Damien Hirst’s series “The Currency” had to choose this week whether to keep their NFTs or the corresponding drawings. The orphaned physical works will be burned during an exhibition at Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in London beginning September 9. (Artnet News)…
- South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, announced a $3.7 billion investment in the arts to make the country “culturally attractive” ahead of its star turn on the global art stage this September. (Artnet News)
“This is total b.s. Sergey and I are friends and were at a party together last night!”
—Elon Musk’s tweet in response to a report that part of his trip to last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach included sleeping with Nicole Shanahan, the wife of his longtime confidant and Google cofounder Sergey Brin. ()
I Shop Therefore I Am
Barbara Kruger produced many of her most famous works in the 1980s, but current events have made them feel more vital than ever—and her market is heating up in step.
- Kruger’s modern auction ascent began in November 2004, when her now-landmark work (1983) sold for a record $601,600 at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York.
- Kruger lots have brought more than $27.1 million in sales under the hammer since 2005, despite that only nine works have surpassed $500,000 each during that stretch. (Her pieces regularly trade for seven figures privately.)
- The artist’s auction sales to date in 2022 ($1.7 million) have already topped her entire annual total for 2020 ($1.6 million)—and could still eclipse her all-time high of $3.3 million in 2019.
Click through for details on Kruger’s most in-demand works, the best opportunities to find value in her oeuvre, and the wider context for her market’s progression.