Of course, those kinds of numbers bring the big dogs in. In her paper, Gnyp cites over a dozen examples of top-tier galleries adding women in their seventies and older (or deceased) to their rosters since 2010, including Mira Schendel, represented by Hauser & Wirth since 2014; Ruth Asawa, with David Zwirner since 2017; Senga Nengudi, with Dominique Lévy (now Lévy Gorvy) since 2015; and Phyllida Barlow, with Hauser & Wirth since 2010.
Their access to institutions around the world, as well as a global base of the world’s wealthiest collectors, has helped further propel these women to prominence and send their prices skyward.
A 2009 New York Times story on Herrera said her larger paintings were selling on the range from $30,000 to an “unimaginable” $44,000; Herrera told the paper, “I have more money now than I ever had in my life.” Her paintings have recently sold for the mid- to high-six figures at auction; in fall 2016, Cerulean (1965) went for $970,000 at a Phillips evening sale. At Art Basel last week, Lisson Gallery reported selling a 1949 oil on burlap painting by Herrera for $750,000; McCaffrey multiple works by Rama for between $50,000 and $800,000; and Lévy Gorvy five Rama works, each priced between $300,000 and $600,000. McCaffrey notes that they’re “still completely undervalued” compared with her Italian contemporaries such as Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, and Alberto Burri, whose works routinely sell at prices in the millions.
With those works out of reach to all but the most price-insensitive collectors, these older women represent an opportunity to own the highest-quality work for sums that won’t make one’s eyes water.
“When people can’t buy…what was considered a masterpiece by another generation or another canon of artists, they look elsewhere, and they’re willing to pay more for that as well,” says Sabbatino.
“There’s a certain anger”
To some, the belated, and sometimes posthumous, recognition for these women is disturbing,…