When a $1 Million Painting Is a Bargain
The markets for deceased artists can oscillate wildly. They depend on trends in art collecting, changing tastes, and the influence of foundations or galleries. But trends and taste are fickle, galleries can fail, and foundations are only as effective as whoever is managing them.
A savvy collector, then, might be wary about buying into a market that is described as ascendant. No one wants to buy at the top. But how, then, do you account for the vast, much-hyped trove work of Josef Albers, a modernist painter who died almost 40 years ago?
There are two reliable barometers to gauge the popularity of a dead artist’s work: museum shows and auction results. Starting in May 2016, the market for Albers got both.
That was when mega gallery David Zwirner announced it was representing the estate of Albers, who died in 1976, as well as his wife Anni, also a noted artist who died in 1994. Around the same time, MoMA in New York and the Yale University Art Museum announced upcoming shows of Albers’ work. Meanwhile, the exhibition Josef Albers in Mexico was scheduled to open at the Guggenheim on Nov. 3.