Market Matters: Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

In economic terms, the current performance of works by American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein at auction demonstrates greater market buoyancy for his works albeit the recent financial crisis. While the market for Lichtenstein saw significant distress in the beginnings of such financial crisis, following that of his price breakthrough in 2010, the market for his works has proven resilient in both price and value. The upward trend in higher price estimates for works by Lichtenstein, both realised and exceeded in recent auction results, justify his increasing market performance. Now averaging at a price range of over $1 million per work at auction, Lichtenstein approaches a performance level akin to that of Pop Art heavy weight, Andy Warhol. At present, his annual auction results continue to amass a minimum of $17 million plus since 2010. However, in years preceding 2010, only about half a dozen of his works reached that of the 7-figures sales range. Such a recent and significant increase in performance from 2010 to now is characterised not only by an upward trend in price estimates but is further augmented by the increase in the global market confidence for Lichtenstein work as a contemporary master.

At current, it is held that the market for the blue chip contemporary artist is one of a high confidence. What this means is that the market identifies his works to retain and increase in price, providing buyers and sellers a sense of positive economic security, in that the price and value of his works will be held and cumulative in the marketplace henceforth. According to ArtTactic’s June 2012 Confidence Index Ranking for Blue-chip Post-war and Contemporary Artists, Lichtenstein ranks in second with a confidence indicator of 96%, after that of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Having risen 10 ranks from preceding years, his second position ranking indicates that Lichtenstein is among the principal artists in which the market continues to exude financial demonstrably for his works from both the high and low end of his market. In other words, since his market confidence is high, there is greater assurance in the purchase of Lichtenstein works, although there is no promise of an outright guarantee.

His high market confidence however is not solely achieved through factors of economic value such as prior sales figures and monetary appraisals of artwork. Rather, the social value of his art can also determine fluctuations in price, and more often than not actually increase the price of his works. Social value of a work can be determined by scholastic endeavour and both commercial (i.e. galleries) and institutional (i.e. museums) art world validation. Apart of the influence American Pop Art movement, Roy Lichtenstein is an indispensable artist of the twentieth century. His market success is in part outstanding to the recent and various retrospectives of his work in the US and Europe. His renown at present is particularly accumulating greater institutional validation, and in turn international public exposure, with his recent retrospective at Tate Modern in London. The American artist is not only becoming a household name in the US and Europe, but has since attracted the attention of Asian collectors. The opportunity to acquire his works whether top quality originals to authentic, affordable prints has garnered attention from the full spectrum of fine art collectors worldwide.

[Author: Nicole Crisonino, Sotheby’s Institute of Art]

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