Price Check is a weekly column that looks into the price of works currently on view at commercial galleries. Have they sold? For how much? Are either or both of these answers shocking compared to the amount the works sold for at auction? The “truth in pricing” law—NY Code-Subchapter 2, which can be viewed in full here—states that all items for sale in New York must have a price tag conspicuously displayed. Galleries don’t always do this, but that’s not the point. The point is simply to ask about the price and see what happens.
Thomas Nozkowski at Pace Gallery
At Pace, Thomas Nozkowski’s new colorful mixed media drawings and oil paintings trekked a single-file, horizontal line across the perimeter of the gallery’s main room and an adjoining smaller alcove. In the last decade, Nozkowski works have sold for a maximum of $34,375 at auction, with figures trending in the –teen thousands.
In response to my inquiry, gallery director David Goerk generously leaped from behind the desk to give me a whirlwind tour, dutifully rattling off numbers. “These works come in three different sizes—the 22 x 28-inch oils on linen are $85,000, the 22 x 30-inch oils on paper are $30,000, and the small format drawings are between $12,000 and $15,000.”
“Amazing, amazing,” I repeated breathlessly as I typed all of this into my phone. So distracted was I by my expressions of gratitude that poor Goerk had to repeat himself three times, and then email it all to me later, because my version read: “$8500022 16 by 20 2003 oil p.”
Keith Haring at Skarstedt Gallery
“N/A,” said the gallery assistant, to paraphrase. She explained that all five paintings in the current show, “Heaven and Hell,” are borrowed from private collections. The large-scale works share comparable dimensions, with the exception of the much longer-than-wide Untitled (June 11, 1984). A similar large-scale Haring—a 1983 vinyl-on-tarpaulin Untitled—sold for $2,045,000 at Christie’s last November, and judging by recent auction trends, it’s probably safe to assume all five of these works are worth somewhere between $2 million and $4 million.
Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth
“Seven Billion Light Years” encompasses a broad range of mediums: there’s the brochure-favored, gently babbling This is not a fountain (h/t Magritte), painted bronze mangoes and potatoes, video art, found objects, paintings, mixed media, a floor installation made with real Indian dirt (“30,000 pounds of soil,” a gallery attendant whispered to an enraptured visitor, who murmured, “Wild, wild”) and what could best be described as a trio of giant steel/copper/plastic pom-poms. For reference, a different steel pom-pom, titled CHIMTA, sold for £182,500 ($269,662) at Sotheby’s in 2013.
Upon inquiring as to the price of any or all of these works, gallery assistant #1 told me to hold on for just a sec. She whispered urgently to the top-knotted, bespectacled gallery assistant #2, who shrugged without looking up from her MacBook Air. (The active/dormant assistant duo dynamic at gallery front desks is universal, it seems.) Assistant #1 swept into a back office and swept out again a couple seconds later. “They’re all out to lunch.”
I received a tip sheet and instructions to contact a certain publicist of note, who would be able to give me an estimated range for the entire show. It was a battle lost, though the war wasn’t over until several days later, when the same publicist, after a series of increasingly suspicious-sounding emails on her end, stopped responding.
Anyway, Gupta’s average sale price has been slipping since the late 2000s, and judging by recent sales, I’d have one word for anything in this show priced over $800,000 (with the possible exception of This is not a fountain): exorbitant.