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The art market in 2023 witnessed a notable shift, with blue-chip artists like Christopher Wool and Jeff Koons experiencing a downturn in their auction performance. This trend, emerging from a slump that began in the early 2020s, raises questions about the prospects of these celebrated artists in 2024.

Auction results from 2023 paint a picture of changing tides. Wool’s works, once highly sought after, have seen a significant decrease in value. His piece “Untitled,” featuring the phrase “FUCK EM IF THEY CANT TAKE A JOKE,” sold for well under its high estimate at Christie’s. Similarly, Koons’ market trajectory has been downward, with most of his works selling just above their low estimates. Notably, his sculpture “Kiepenkerl (Humpty Dumpty)” fetched a mere $1.9 million against an expected $3-5 million.

John Currin, another artist once at the market’s pinnacle, also faced declines. His 1999 picture “Nice ‘n Easy” failed to find a buyer at Christie’s, despite its historical performance suggesting a higher value.

The art world’s focus has been shifting since the death of George Floyd in 2020. Museums and auction houses have been diversifying their offerings, introducing more works by women and artists of color. This change is reflected in the buying patterns of collectors. The ARTnews Top 200 list revealed a preference for younger artists of color, including Rashid Johnson, Alvaro Barrington, and Che Lovelace, over traditional blue-chip artists.

While top-selling works at auction in 2023 were by Picasso, Monet, and Kandinsky, records set by artists like Julie Mehretu, Simone Leigh, and El Anatsui indicate a growing market for historically underrepresented artists.

The future for artists like Koons and Wool, who once dominated the art market, remains uncertain. The cyclical nature of the art market suggests that what falls out of favor may well regain popularity. Adam Green, an art adviser and host of the ArtTactic podcast, notes that the art world’s recent focus on marginalized artists is a significant shift. He suggests that while there may be a narrowing focus on artists from underserved communities, the long-term trend will likely prioritize originality and quality, irrespective of the artist’s background.

As 2024 approaches, the art market might see a continued emphasis on emerging talents and diversification. Whether this means a rebound for blue-chip artists like Koons and Wool or a further shift away from their works remains to be seen.


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