Who Are the Most Expensive Living Female Artists?

Posted by: Kevin Coyle

This post was curated from an article written by Eileen Kinsella for Art Net News

While it’s no secret that the list of the most expensive artists at auction is heavily dominated by males, some female artists have nonetheless been gaining serious ground in recent years. With the help of the artnet Price Database team, artnet News crunched the numbers to find the latest crop of top-selling women in the field.

The list is fairly wide ranging, from blue-chip names like Yayoi Kusama to contemporary stars such as Cecily Brown. Read on for the complete list and the heights their works have hit at auction.

1. Yayoi Kusama
It looks like it will be another big year for Japanese artist—whose name is synonymous with her signature polka dots—as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, gears up for her major retrospective. The museum is expecting such a large influx that for the first time ever it has instituted free timed tickets and hired more than 120 additional volunteers. And Kusama continues to be a fixture at major auctions. The record for her work, set two years at Christie’s New York, for White No. 28, (1960) is $7.3 million.

2. Cindy Sherman
Sherman’s experimentation with role play continues in her colorful, fantastical photographs, and buyers can’t seem to get enough. The record for Sherman was set two years ago at Christie’s New York, when a group of black and white Untitled Film Stills (1977), sold for $6.7 million at a Christie’s evening sale of postwar and contemporary art. To date, 17 of her works have fetched over $1 million each at auction.

3. Bridget Riley
As critic Robert Melville once put it: “No painter, dead or alive, has ever made us more aware of our eyes than Bridget Riley.” Her Op-Art paintings continue to dazzle critics and buyers alike. The top price of £4.3 million ($5.7 million) was set for the artist at Christie’s London this past June, when a gray 1966 work, titled Untitled (Diagonal Curve), exceeded the high end of the estimate. It is one of two Riley works to sell above $5 million at auction. To date, 15 of her paintings have commanded above $1 million each at auction.

4. Marlene Dumas
It’s not hard to see why Dumas’ skillful and often haunting figurative paintings captivate huge audiences. The current auction high for the South African-born painter, who lives and works in Amsterdam, is $6.3 million, set at Sotheby’s London in July 2008, for The Visitor (1995). The Teacher (1987) (pictured above), holds the second-highest slot, having sold for £1.8 million ($3.3 million) at Christie’s London in 2005.

5. Cecily Brown
The British artist’s masterful paintings frequently focus on animal or nature themes and present “a world that pulses with excesses and appetites,” according to a statement on the website of powerhouse Gagosian Gallery, which represents her. The highest price for one of her mesmerizing oil-on-canvas paintings is $1.6 million, paid for The Pyjama Game (1997-98), at Christie’s New York in May 2007.

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