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Strong Prices for Benglis Sculptures

Artist Lynda Benglis (b. 1961) currently has a show (through Oct. 15) at New York gallery Cheim & Read, the sculptor’s primary dealer since the late 1990s. Prices for her recent pieces range from $40,000/250,000, with some climbing as high as $300,000/350,000, depending upon size. One such piece, a tripartite 10-foot-tall glasswork, The Graces, is

NEW YORK—Artist Lynda Benglis (b. 1961) currently has a show (through Oct. 15) at New York gallery Cheim & Read, the sculptor’s primary dealer since the late 1990s.

Prices for her recent pieces range from $40,000/250,000, with some climbing as high as $300,000/350,000, depending upon size. One such piece, a tripartite 10-foot-tall glasswork, The Graces, is on view at Cheim & Read.

The gallery’s last one-person Benglis show, a survey of 15 pieces from 1969-present (several loaned by collectors), occurred in 2003, resulting in the sale of five. Benglis also creates works on paper, such as monotypes ($1,500/2,000 apiece) and wax drawings (ranging from $3,000/8,000).

Co-owner of the gallery John Cheim told ARTnewsletter that secondary-market prices for pieces by Benglis have been strong. “We’re particularly keen on trying to get works from the 1960s and ’70s,” he says, noting that “few are available.” In part that is because many of the sculptures from the time of her breakthrough have been snatched up by collectors and museums.

Additionally, Cheim points out, “she didn’t capitalize on the attention she was receiving at the time.” Some of her pieces were ephemeral and site-specific; others were destroyed, he adds: “She wasn’t creating for the market, I’m sorry to say.”

San Francisco art dealer Stephen Tourell, of Toomey Tourell Fine Art, says Benglis has “a very good market—that is to say, there is more demand than supply, far more demand.” Though prices for her sculpture have not risen dramatically in recent years, the “availability of her work, especially of her early work from the late 1960s to the early ’70s, is very limited,” he notes.

Her creations have often been viewed as responses to those of other artists. Early in her career, for instance, Benglis created “frozen gestures” in wax that sought to evoke Jackson Pollock’s paintings in three dimensions, and leaning, biomorphic forms that challenged the blandness of minimal art. Her performance-art videos of the mid-1970s challenged stereotypes of femininity and feminist art.

Benglis sculptures have appeared at auction from time to time, attaining the highest price in 2005 at Christie’s when a 1970 untitled work in pigmented beeswax, damar resin and gesso on Masonite fetched $38,400, nearly quintupling the high estimate of $8,000. Other top auction prices: $25,300 (estimate: $20,000/30,000) for the aluminum-with-wire Szawe, 1989, at Sotheby’s in 1999; $25,200 (estimate: $7,000/9,000) for the mixed-media (aluminum with cotton bunting, plaster, zinc and tin) India, 1974, at Sotheby’s in 2004; and $22,000 (estimate: $10,000/12,000) for the sculpture Fantasm, 1980, at Sotheby’s in 1987.

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