On Monday evening, a new auction record was set for Agnes Martin during Sotheby’s $676.1 million sale of the Harry and Linda Macklowe collection in New York. Though that new benchmark still lags far behind ones for Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, whose work was also represented in the Macklowe sale, the new record is a sign that her market is slowly beginning to catch up to her recent ascent in the museum world.
Martin’s Untitled #44, a white-striped canvas from 1974, spurred one of the most suspenseful bidding spars of the night. Five bidders total competed for the work, which ultimately found a buyer on the phone with Sotheby’s Asia chairman Patti Wong for $17.7 million with premium. That bidder triumphed over one on the phone with New York specialist Bame Fierro March.
Another painting by Martin, Untitled 13 (2002), which was held by the Macklowes for 18 years, sold for $3 million, against a low estimate of $2 million.
The result for Untitled #44 is an impressive feat for the artist, who has gone under-appreciated at auction. The result for the painting blew past her previous auction record of $10.6 million, set back in 2016 when her off-white monochrome canvas Orange (Grove), from 1956, sold at Christie’s in New York.
Untitled #44 was made shortly after Martin relocated from New York to Taos, New Mexico. The Macklowes purchased it from Pace Gallery in New York the same year the painting was created and held onto it for over four decades.
Martin’s record reflects a broader trend across the market. Top collectors are beginning to shift their buying habits to address historical gaps that have left women and artists of color under-represented, both institutionally and privately. In Martin’s case, her market resurgence can be partially traced back to a 2015 Tate Modern retrospective that renewed interest in her work.
Martin is not the only female postwar artist to see her record get re-set this auction season. At Christie’s last week, a painting by Lee Bontecou sold for $9.2 million, more than quadrupling its low estimate of $2 million.