Stella's $10M Gamble: Worth It? 🤔

+ Porter Paints the Market Red + Judd's Stacked Odds + Kahlo's $8M Gamble


The Hammer is a series from Frame&Flame that reviews past auction performances and upcoming lots to identify artists whose markets are 'heating up.'

This week’s The Hammer includes:

  • 📈 Heating Up: Fairfield Porter's oil paintings are surging in the 2023 art market, with record-breaking sales and high sell-through rates.

  • 🔍 Lots to Watch: Frank Stella and Donald Judd pieces headline upcoming high-stakes auctions, while Frida Kahlo's $8 million estimated portrait could redefine her market status.

Read Time 05 minutes

📈 Heating Up

Fairfield Porter was a magnetic exception to the Abstract Expressionist dominance of post-war America. Straddling the line between realism and abstraction, Porter used his brushes to paint the world around him—landscapes, family, and domestic scenes.

At a time when abstraction was the talk of the town, his work hinged on an emotional core, rooted in a strong sense of "matter-of-fact." But how does this translate into the art market of 2023? Let's dive into the numbers.

Fairfield Porter, Girl in a Landscape, 1965

🔴 Market Signals

Averages Over the Last 36 Months

  • Yearly Lots Sold: 10

  • Sell-through Rate: A respectable 86.4% of works offered were sold.

  • Average Sale Price: $377,803

  • Price Over Estimate: 27%

Porter's works, for the most part, are performing exceptionally well, crushing estimates with an overall hammer ratio of 3.77 in 2023.

🦞 Recent Auction Highlights

  1. Girl in a Landscape, 1965: This work sold at Sotheby's for $2,843,000, far exceeding its estimate of $500,000–$700,000. This represents a price over estimate of 374% and sets the record price for Porter to date.

  2. Great Spruce Head: Also at Sotheby's, this piece fetched $279,400 against an estimate of $80,000–$120,000, marking a 179% price over estimate.

  3. Morning Sun Over the South Meadow, 1975: Sold at Christie's for $126,000, surpassing its $40,000–$60,000 estimate by 152%.

  4. Indoors, 1964: This piece went for $441,000 at Rago, well over its $100,000 estimate, a jump of 341%.

  5. The Door, 1959: A surprise at Sotheby's, it sold for $20,160 against a $10,000–$15,000 estimate, a rise of 61%.

Upgrade to unlock the full story behind these numbers…

🔍Lots to Watch

Frank Stella, Honduras Lottery Co. (1962)

California collector Chara Schreyer's auction at Sotheby's kicks off this fall and runs through 2024, with a heavy-hitting lineup. Frank Stella's "Honduras Lottery Co." is a spotlight piece, estimated at $10 million. It’s one of just six Concentric Squares Stella crafted at this scale in the '60s, and half of those are in top-tier museums like the Whitney. Donald Judd’s “Untitled” is a piece from the Stack sculptures, with a $7 million estimate, underlining the gravitas of his early work. Also in the lineup is Eva Hesse's "Top Spot," estimated at $5 million; its significance is underscored by the fact that over half of its 14-relief series are in institutional collections. Lesser but not to be underestimated, Warhol, Gober, and Duchamp pieces are listed with estimates from $1.8 million to $3 million.

💭My 2 Cents: The data signals an opportunity in Stella and Judd. Stella's piece has the rarity factor—only three other works of this scale are in institutional settings, making it a collector's crown jewel. Judd’s “Untitled” captures his early Stack phase, and at $7 million, could be a calculated risk for long-term value accretion. Eva Hesse's "Top Spot," too, bears watching. Given that more than half of the 14 reliefs in the series are already snatched up by institutions, the scarcity drives up the value. On the lower end, Gober's "Deep Basin Sink," bought by Schreyer two decades ago, already broke an auction record then. Its $2 million estimate now only hints at its potential for value escalation. In summary, if you're looking to diversify a high-end portfolio with pieces that have both historical gravitas and scarcity, this auction offers ample room for strategic acquisition.

Upgrade for the full batch of lots for this week, including works by Cézanne and Frida Kahlo…

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