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The 5 Most Highly Rated Female Artists On The Art Market

Yayoi Kusama

Why do we feel obliged to specify “female artists” when we never say “male artists”? How many names of female artists can you name?

The international art world, despite being recognised for its innovative character, lags far behind in the field of equality. The representation of women in museums is no more than 5%. In the art market, women account for only 2% of the overall market. Despite the long road to equality, women are increasingly attracting the attention of collectors, some of them soaring in popularity!

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Singulart offers you a quick overview of the 5 best-selling female artists today!

1 – Yayoi Kusama: one of the world’s most highly rated female artists

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Female artist Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2010, sold in Hong Kong €5,227,854 at the hammer.

This Japanese artist, with her eccentric personality and orange hair, is an emblematic figure of the hippie years. Her abstract and colourful paintings with infinite weights have conquered the international art market. Today she is the female artist who has sold the most works, exceeding one million euros! Her record is 6 million euros at the hammer at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2019. She is to date the most quoted female artist on the art market.

2 – Cindy Sherman, American feminist artist

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female artist Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1977 sold in New York 5 448 201 € fees included.

In the early 1970s, the American photographer was one of the first female artists to denounce social inequality. She began with female archetypes as imposed on women by the male gaze. In her self-portraits, also known as “anti-portraits”, she stages herself to question identity and its modes of representation. The artist shatters all stereotypes as she panics the market with more than 17 works exceeding one million euros at auction and a record of more than 5 million for Untitled Film Stills in 1977.

3 – Bridget Riley, Op-Art pioneer

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Bridget Riley in her studio. © Tate, London, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Tate Photography

The Abstraction Revolution has for too long been seen as a man’s business. Yet the British painter Bridget Riley was one of the emblematic figures of Pop-Art in the 1960s, along with Victor Vasarely. Her gigantic abstract paintings with geometric shapes that play on our perceptions still inflame the market with more than 21 works sold for more than a million, with a hammer and a record of 5 million euros (including costs) reached in London in 2016.

4 – Julie Mehretu, the most popular African-born painter of her generation.

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Julie Mehretu in her studio de Chelsea, New York, 2018-2019. Clément Pascal for WSJ.Magazine

Born in Ethiopia, Julie Mehretu studied in Senegal and now lives in New York. Her gigantic and dynamic abstract canvases explore a “psycho-geography” of space and question our social behaviour. Her architectural abstractions have already taken him to the MoMA in New York, the Pinault Foundation in Venice and Documenta Cassel. His work Black Ground (Deep Light) broke the record of 5 million euros (including costs) in Hong Kong in 2019.

5 – Jenny Saville, world record for a living woman artist

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Jenny Saville, Propped, 1992, sold at Sotheby’s London for 10 848 764 € in 2018. ©Sotheby’s.

The London-based painter is the leader of the Young British Artists and is known for her monumental portraits that challenge all the canons of feminine beauty. In 2018, she broke the record for the world’s most expensive sold work by a living female artist. At Sotheby’s London, the hammer went up to over 10 million euros for the painting Propped when the collection of David Teiger, patron and historical collector, was dispersed.

In spite of these records being broken at auction, the gap between male and female artists on the market remains huge. By way of comparison, the work that broke the auction record for a living male artist in 2019 was sold for a staggering $91.1 million (Rabbit, 1986, Jeff Koons), which is 10 times more expensive than the female record.