Are ‘undervalued’ female artworks the best art investment?


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Those looking for the right path to take in terms of art investment should perhaps consider investing in the "woefully undervalued" works by female artists, art establishment experts across the world have suggested.

Experts in the field have highlighted an "unjust anomaly” in the value of pieces by women as opposed to those created by male artists of the same talent and experience. These leaders have encouraged art owners, investors and art lovers to focus more strongly on the works by female artists in order to help bring them up to the pace they deserve – in line with male artists.

Momentum is said to be already starting to build in the arena, with the previously "totally overlooked" women now becoming the centrepieces of numerous high-profile exhibitions across the globe. However, there still remains a vast discrepancy in terms of the prices paid for pieces by males and females.

According to well-known auction house Bonhams, just 19 of the top 500 artists sold in terms of value over the course of the last year were women. The Telegraph reported that Bonhams' magazine stated: "It is a truth now universally acknowledged that women artists, both dead and living, are woefully undervalued.”

The head of post-war and contemporary department at the auction house, Ralph Taylor, told the newspaper that while female French sculptor, Germaine Richier, had sold her top priced work for £1.2 million, this did not come close to the £91.6 million price achieved for a piece by the late Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti in 2015.

Similarly, while the late American artist Georgia O’Keefe took the record for the highest price paid at auction for a piece of art by a female – £28 million for her Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, painted in 1932 – this still pales into insignificance when compared to the £116 million paid for Picasso’s Femme d’Algers, Version 0, last year. The most expensive piece of art ever to change hands was the £202 million When Will You Marry by Paul Gauguin, which was also sold in 2015.

Bonhams' post-war and contemporary art specialist, Martina Batovic, spoke at the launch of a recent report into luxury investment market trends, and was reported by the newspaper as saying: "There is definitely an anomaly there, where female artists who have had the same career trajectories, the same museum shows, the same retrospectives, the same acknowledgement from the market, are nowhere near in prices close to their male counterparts. There’s a huge price gap.

“It is our belief that it’s an unjust anomaly and we are looking to explore that anomaly further and to bring these artists to the market not only because they’re females but because they are good, purely on the quality of the art. It’s something we’re slowly seeing a focus on and we expect things to change over the coming years because there is no rational reason why that should be. Then again, art is not always very rational."

Another art expert, Iwan Wirth, owner of well-respected gallery Hauser and Wirth, recently said that female artistic works were undoubtedly the "bargain of the century," something that any investor with their eye on the next big thing will be only too happy to hear. With artists including Agnes Martin and Marlene Dumas recently on show at the Tate Modern, and other shows from Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois also hitting the headlines, it seems investors could do far worse than to purchase works that have yet to reach their full potential in terms of value.

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