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Saul Steinberg’s Art: ‘A Very International Market’

Artist Saul Steinberg (1914-99) was “one of a kind, always unique,” says Marc Glimcher, president of PaceWildenstein Gallery, which represented the artist when he was alive and now represents the Saul Steinberg Foundation.

NEW YORK—Artist Saul Steinberg (1914-99) was “one of a kind, always unique,” says Marc Glimcher, president of PaceWildenstein Gallery, which represented the artist when he was alive and now represents the Saul Steinberg Foundation.

Steinberg “was very much in the public eye, but not a presence in the art market,” says Joel Smith, photography curator at the Princeton University Art Museum. This, he notes, is a problem for many artists—including illustrators and photographers—whose work is reproducible and found on the printed page.

For Steinberg however, the scene is changing. Smith is curator of the exhibit “Saul Steinberg: Illuminations” at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, through the end of February and cocurator of another show, “A City on Paper: Saul Steinberg’s New York,” on view through March 25 at the Museum of the City of New York.

The Morgan exhibit will travel in the U.S. to the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., and Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and overseas to the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, Paris, and the Kunsthaus, Zurich.

Additionally, all 40 drawings and mixed-media constructions by Steinberg on display at Manhattan’s Adam Baumgold Gallery through Feb. 10 have found buyers, and quite a mix of them. “It’s a very international market,” Adam Baumgold told ARTnewsletter, noting that while some of the private collectors hail from New York, others live in England, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland. This is the eighth showing of Steinberg’s work staged by the gallery since 1994, all on the secondary market.

The drawings and works on paper in the show, including both sketches and completed works, range in price from $10,000/$100,000, though some of the sketches can go for as little as $4,000/5,000. The mixed-media pieces, which tend to look like tables on which images are painted, are priced from $50,000 “to a few hundred thousand dollars,” Baumgold reports.

Other works by the artist—lithographs, generally in edition sizes of 75-100—are priced from $1,500/4,000, while poster versions of some of Steinberg’s New Yorker covers and assorted designs, including originals and reprints, go for $50/100.

Another source of New Yorker reproductions is the magazine’s own Cartoon Bank, which offers 31 cover images and inside-the-magazine illustrations. These are priced from $100/300, depending upon size and whether or not the work is matted and framed.

Throughout his career, Steinberg had several advocates, including major art dealers the likes of Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis, who both represented his work from the 1950s into the 1980s; and the PaceWildenstein gallery, which has handled his work ever since. Observes Princeton Art Museum’s Smith: “He was always an anomaly in those galleries.”

Glimcher says Steinberg has a “core of collectors who have always supported his work.” But now, he notes, “mainstream collectors are becoming aware of him, of all he has done—and prices have gone up significantly in the past few years. They jumped from $20,000 and $30,000 to $50,000 and $60,000 and now are even higher.”

Works from the various media in which Steinberg has worked all have found their way to public sales over the years, often surpassing auction house estimates. The highest auction price is for his iconic 1976 New Yorker cover art View of the World from Ninth Avenue—a pen-and-ink drawing that fetched $222,500 at Christie’s in 1993, far above the $18,000-22,000 estimate.

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