Know Your Artist — By the Numbers: Joan Mitchell | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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Know Your Artist — By the Numbers: Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) was among the prominent “second generation” of  American Abstract Expressionist painters.
She was born in Chicago and educated at Smith College in Massachusetts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she acquired a BFA in 1947 and MFA in 1950. 

Later, Mitchell received a scholarship that took her to New York, where she was highly influenced by the paintings of Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky. She was also inspired by poetry, nature and landscapes;  her  paintings conveyed emotions, and some of her works evoked impressions of landscape.  Mitchell’s large, often multipaneled, compositions with gestural, often violent, brushstrokes and vibrant colors, depicting cubist cityscapes, interiors and figures, became progressively more abstract.

Throughout the 1950s. Mitchell’s compositions received wide acclaim, and she was included in successful gallery exhibitions. 

In 1955, she began dividing her time between New York and France, and by 1968 she settled permanently in Vétheuil, France, where she lived and worked until her death in 1992. “City Landscape” (1955), “Hemlock” (1956) and “Tilleul” (1978) are some of her notable works.

Joan Mitchell ranks at No.1 as the highest-grossing female artist of all time at auction.


Here is a performance analysis of Joan Mitchell’s artworks in the auction market:


1. Sales Trend in the Past 20 Years
Joan Mitchell’s best year was 2013, when sales totaled $51.5 million for 32 lots.
In that year, she fetched astonishing prices for some her artworks: “The 14th of July,” sold for $7.1 million at Christie’s New York; “Atlantic Side” $6.9 million at Sotheby’s; “Untitled” $6.3 million at Christie’s;  and "County Clare" $5 million at Sotheby’s.
In 2014, her sales declined to $26.9 million because more than 57 percent of her works sold for below $50,000 and a few of her high-estimated works were left unsold like “Cherchez L'aiguille,” which had a pre-sale estimate of  $6 million  to  $8 million at Sotheby's New York and “Blue Michigan,” which had a presale estimate of $2 million to  $3 million at Christie’s London.


2. Volume of Artworks on Offer vs. Bought-in Rate
2013 being a record-setting year for the artist in terms of sales, it was also the year that had the low bought-in rate of 11 percent or just 4 lots left unsold.
As mentioned in section-1, 2014 registered lackluster sales  of  $26.9 million, with a high bought-in rate of nearly 35 percent.


3. Bought-in by Auction Houses
The graphic below represents the artist’s lots and bought-in rates at the top two auction houses. Overall in the period between 2014 and 2017, the number of lots offered at Christie’s and Sotheby’s were low when compared with other auction houses.
It is interesting to note that in the past two years, Christie’s had very few lots on offer (six in 2016 and five in 2017) for the artist, but it sold all the works. Since 2014, the artist’s works have been offered more at auction houses other than Christie’s and Sotheby’s combined.

4. Average and Median Sale Price Trend in the Past 20 Years
The average price for the artist remained very low in the period 1998 to 2007, with just 10 percent or 10 of the artworks crossing the $1 million threshold.
In 2008, Mitchell’s sale price average at $2.2 million and median at  $1.5 million both were registered all-time highs —  because 16 of the 18 offered lots totaled $34.4 million, among them nine artworks crossed the $1 million mark in that year. The artworks that were good values 2008 were “La ligne de la rupture,” which sold for $6.1 million and “La Grande Vallee XI,”  which sold for  $5.2 million.

5. Highest-Priced Artworks
Mitchell‘s top 10 artworks, in terms of selling price, all were sold at Sotheby’s and Christies.
On May 17, her “Blueberry”, achieved a total of $16.6 million at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. The oil on canvas was painted in 1969 and  signed “Joan Mitchell” (lower right);  it was signed again and titled “Mitchell Blueberry” (on the reverse).
The second highest sale was “Untitled,” a 1960 oil-on-canvas work, which sold for $11.9 million at Christie’s on May 13, 2014.
On May 10, 2016, her third-highest sale occurred at Christie’s New York, when “Noon,” painted in 1969, fetched $9.8 million.

6. Price Band in Which Her Works Have Sold in the Past 10 Years
Most of her artworks, or 29.7 percent, were sold for over $1 million, indicating that that Joan Mitchell is a high-valued artist, and  26.6 percent of her works were sold between $100 to $1 million.

7. Where Have Her Works Sold the Most in the Past 20 Years
More than 90 percent of her total sales occurred at the top two auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s in the past 20 years.
In terms of volume, 70 percent of the artist’s works were sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, while a significant 30 percent were sold at other auction houses.
From a geographical perspective, the United States leads with $316.9 million, followed by France at $46.1 million.

8. Top Selling Media in the Past 20 Years
Mitchell’s primary medium was oil paint on canvas, which gave return of $372.2 million for 256 lots.

9. Total Sales from auctions since January 1 through  July 31, 2018
So far this year, her sales have reached nearly $40 million, bolstered by the sale of “Blueberry” for $16.6 million at Christie’s Contemporary Art sales on May 18.
Mitchell’s sales this year have already surpassed her total sales of last year, which were $30.7 million.  With an exciting auction season ahead of us in the fourth quarter, we expect this artist to break through her previous records.

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Founder Louise Blouin

Top auction results for Joan Mitchell