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The Art of Mark Tansey Is Slow to Make, Quick to Sell

All six paintings in the show of Mark Tansey, 55, at Manhattan’s Gagosian Gallery from Nov. 6-Dec. 18, were sold to private and institutional collectors. Prices for his art reportedly start at $650,000 for paintings, each of which takes the artist six months or more to complete. “This show was three years in the making,”

NEW YORK—All six paintings in the show of Mark Tansey, 55, at Manhattan’s Gagosian Gallery from Nov. 6-Dec. 18, were sold to private and institutional collectors. Prices for his art reportedly start at $650,000 for paintings, each of which takes the artist six months or more to complete. “This show was three years in the making,” says a Gagosian Gallery spokesman. “He doesn’t crank them out.”

The artist’s entire body of work may number only a hundred paintings, along with a variety of drawings—and ever-rising prices reflect collectors’ sense of their rarity. There is an extensive waiting list of buyers for new works. Tansey’s painting “utilizes a flat, descriptive style and depicts primarily landscapes, naturalistic figures in arrested movement and domestic interiors,” according to a recent Christie’s catalogue.”

“Every time I get a work, I assume it’s the last I’ll ever get,” Chicago art dealer Alan Koppel told ARTnewsletter. He says he has handled approximately 20 paintings and 15 drawings on the secondary market during the past five years. Some of those paintings have commanded close to $1 million, while the drawings range in price from $50,000/400,000, depending upon size, Koppel reports.

The Gagosian Gallery has been the artist’s exclusive representative worldwide since 2001. Meanwhile, on the auction market, amounts have skyrocketed over the past few years. The highest public sale price to date is $1.24 million—set last November at Sotheby’s for the 5-by-4-foot work The Key, 1984, an oil on canvas that had been given a $700,000/900,000 estimate by the auction house.

In 2002 another high price was achieved— $999,500 (estimate: $500,000/700,000) for the oil Achilles and the Tortoise, 1986. The next-highest prices reveal how great the demand has become: $242,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000) for the oil The Myth of Depth, 1984, at Christie’s in 1992; and $165,000 (estimate: $80,000/220,000) for the oil Four Forbidden Senses (Taste, Sound, Smell, Touch), 1982, at Sotheby’s in 1992.

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