Narsiso Martinez “Sin Bandana” (2022)
At Frieze LA the message was clear: buyers were scooping up pieces by NextGen artists particularly those whose art reflects thought and an authentic connection to the artist who created it. From preview day, entire offerings were sold out, and in some cases that very morning.
Many of these artists are either based in LA, or have a significant LA/Mexico connection, and their work reflects the artistic aesthetic of the sophistication and cultural awareness emblematic of the West Coast. Robust sales left little doubt: these artists resonated deeply with the LA buyers. Maysha Mohamedi, an LA-based artist affiliated with Pace Gallery is one such artist whose abstract, patterned artworks sold out on preview day. Amelia Redgrift the Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at Pace Gallery told ArtTactic that Mohamedi’s small canvases cost around $50,000 and prices rise from there. She noted that some of Mohamedi’s most enthusiastic collectors are other artists themselves, and that Mohamedi was generating museum interest. Her work is already in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Finally, Redgrift pointed out that her following has grown to include international collectors drawn to Mohamedi’s precise, abstract work informed in some ways by her previous career as a scientist. “Even though Mohamedi’s works are abstract there is a real precision and pattern behind them which makes them so unique,” explained Redgrift.
Buyer enthusiasm crossed all oeuvres whether abstraction in the case of Mohamedi, the figurative paintings of Hilda Palafox, the migrant field workers depicted by Narsiso Martinez, or a combination of abstraction and figurative representation shown by next generation artist Doron Langberg. Will Davis, Director of Sales at the Victoria Miro Gallery in Los Angeles noted that Langberg is known for large, expressive paintings that have captured the world around him. The gallery sold eighteen of Langberg’s paintings at prices ranging between $18,000 and $80,000. Davis noted museum interest was high. Langberg is currently having a solo exhibition at the Rubell Museum in Miami until November 2023.
Moving more squarely into the figurative space were two artists of Mexican descent. Hilda Palafox who is affiliated exclusively with Proyectos Monclova, a Mexico City art gallery, generated incredible enthusiasm from collectors for her muralist style of paintings reminiscent of artwork by the great Diego Rivera, and yet unique to her and her identity. These paintings tell a story that, according to Isabella Aballi, the Director of Sales for Proyectos Monclova, is “extremely feminist focused where you can see that in her work, she always references the female body as the vessel of emotion and the female psyche.” Both Think Space and Hashimoto in Los Angeles have both exhibited her work, Thinkspace in 2021, and Hashimoto in 2020. According to Aballi, Palafox’s smaller works cost around $5,000, going as high as $15,000. She asserted that museums are interested in Palafox’s paintings and plans to show her work at Art Basel Miami. Palafox will also undertake a residency in Japan this summer, and her murals, which tend to lend themselves to a larger scale format, can be found in various locations in Mexico and the United States.
Serious art collectors offered insight into what constitutes sound collecting strategy. One high-profile collector who chose to remain anonymous asserted that the primary market for these NextGen artists is robust whereas the secondary market is more neutral: “This is excellent for the artists,” he pointed out, explaining that this market dampens temptation for flipping contemporary artwork, and indicates emotional engagement by the collectors into what they are purchasing. With less certainty surrounding resale value, he opined that a primary market purchase should be less about financial investment, and more based on what a buyer likes.
According to ArtTactic’s recent Art Market Outlook 2023, auction market sales for young artists increased by 3.1% to $346 million in 2022, setting a new record for this market segment. However, the rate of growth seems to be cooling as collectors shift their attention to more established collecting segments. The slowdown of the NextGen art market in 2022, raised concerns among experts surveyed by ArtTactic in January 2023, where 45% see further downside in the auction market in 2023 (up from 11% who said the same in 2022). However, the majority of respondents continue to take a positive-to-neutral view (30% are positive and 25% are neutral), which could signal that the interest in younger generations of artists will continue, albeit at a less frenzied pace seen over the last years.
In terms of selecting which artists to collect, Nicole Reber, a native Los Angeleno and avid collector, shared with me that she collects work by artists whose passion for making art isn’t transient: “I want to know that when I collect works by an artist, they are going to have a long, healthy career, and that they are going to continue to want to work. I don’t want somebody that decides in three years that they don’t want to make art anymore.” Reber pointed out an artist she really enjoys collecting is New York-based Anthony Cudahy, who is represented by GRIMM in collaboration with Hales Gallery and Semiose Gallery. Cudahy’s figurative paintings and drawings weaves imagery taken from photo archives, art history, film stills, hagiographic icons and personal photographs to explore themes around queer identity. His work can be found in both private and public collections, such as The Hort Family Collection, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Kunstmuseum, The Hague; Les Arts au Mur Artothèque de Pessac, Pessac (FR); and Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao.
Another NextGen artist to watch out for is Narsiso Martinez, who spoke with ArtTactic about his figurative works of migrant field workers and his juxtaposition of their lives as portrayed in simple charcoal against gold on commercial produce boxes. Listen to the interview here.
These artworks depict the dichotomy of life of the worker versus the agricultural companies that sell the fruits of their labor. Martinez himself comes from Oaxaca, Mexico, descended from a family of farm laborers, of which he was one himself. Martinez won the coveted Frieze Impact Prize, and his gallery Charlie James confirmed that all of his art sold out on the first day of Frieze LA, and there is now a lengthy wait list for his art. Prices ranged from $8,000 to up to $40,000 for a large series of individual migrant workers each depicted on the inside of a produce box and displayed all together as one artwork. His museum exhibition history is already building and his work has most recently been exhibited at the Smithsonian’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery in an exhibit entitled “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture.” Other museum exhibits and collections include the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Long Beach Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, Orange County Museum of Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
In short, Frieze LA demonstrated that art collectors are engaged and continue to buy art by next generation artists. Recent auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips (see our auction analysis) in London of NextGen artists confirm this trend: sales continue to be strong and signify ongoing interest in young talent.