NEW YORK—The career of Judy Chicago (b. 1939) spans more than four decades, but prices for her artwork have only begun to rise in recent years.The market for Chicago’s work “has definitely turned the corner,” says Dorian Bergen, vice president of ACA Galleries, New York, which has represented the artist for 30 years. Chicago is also represented by LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, and Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis.
The artist’s early work, from 1965 to 1973, consisted of two- and three-dimensional abstract pieces. However, Chicago is best-known for her 1974-79 sculptural installation The Dinner Party, which became an iconic work of feminist art. It consists of 39 pieces of floral-painted dinnerware, placed on a triangular table with 48-foot-long sides, each setting representing a notable historical or mythical woman in Western history.
In 2002, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation purchased The Dinner Party for the Brooklyn Museum. There it will be on permanent display as a centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, slated to open this spring after extensive museum renovations.
Prices Are Way Up
Currently, prices for Chicago’s works range from silkscreen prints at $5,000 (they had once been just $200) and drawings at $6,000/50,000 to paintings on glass at $60,000/150,000, painted ceramics at $60,000/75,000, and embroidered images at $35,000/100,000, according to Bergen and Kenneth Marvel, co-owner of LewAllen.
The artist’s older minimalist pieces have also garnered new interest, with prices of $20,000/150,000 for two-dimensional works (paintings and works on paper) and $35,000/450,000 for sculptural pieces.
From March 21-April 21, ACA Galleries willexhibit preparatory drawings for The Dinner Party plates, for sale as a set for “over $700,000,” Bergen told ARTnewsletter. Another show this May at LewAllen Contemporary, featuring the preproduction plates for The Dinner Party, is setting prices for these pieces at $100,000/200,000 each.
LewAllen Contemporary exhibited approximately 50 glass objects by the artist (some painted, others cast or fused) last November and December, with prices ranging from $6,000/700,000; and related works-on-paper studies for these objects priced from $8,500/12,500.
“That show,” Marvel told ARTnewsletter, “was the bestselling show we’ve ever had at
the gallery.” Since 2005, he added, prices for Chicago’s work have risen by 35-50
percent: “Demand for her work has gotten so great that she has engaged us to take care of the business end of things.”
This year alone, Chicago’s work will be featured in exhibitions at New York’s Hebrew Union College Gallery (“Judy Chicago: Jewish Identity,” February-July); and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (“WACK! Art of the Feminist Revolution,” March-July). A new book about The Dinner Party is to be issued by Merrill Publishers this year, and Harmony Books will publish Gail Levin’s Becoming Judy Chicago sometime this year.
The artist’s work has appeared periodically at public sales, earning relatively modest prices. The top auction price to date is $3,100, for the 1972 watercolor Flesh Gate I, which carried an estimate of $4,000/6,000 at Los Angeles Modern Auctions in 2004.