Women and the 2021 Global Art Market: 100 Most Influential Female Artists You Should Know
With the pandemic still raging around the world, forcing big events to postpone or go virtual, 2021 saw an incredible increase and revitalization of the global art market from 2020. Female artists increasingly play an important role on the market, and the voice of women in art is stronger than ever.
In 2021, works by female artists were traded actively, at a smaller volume but a higher value. The number of lots by female artists auctioned worldwide reached 9,520 in 2021, down 28% on 2020; the global turnover generated by female artists in 2021 hit a ten-year high, reaching $975 million, up 58% on 2020.
Women artists’ percent share of total sales increased from three percent in 2012 to six percent in 2021. Here ArtPro's Data Observer offers an insight into the performance of women on the global art market and the 100 most influential living female artists.
Most Expensive Work by a Female Artist in 2021
Most Expensive Work by a Living Female Artist in 2021
2021 Global Art Market Analysis: Female Artists
1. The global turnover generated by female artists in 2021 hit a ten-year high, reaching $975 million
The global turnover generated by female artists increased from $419 million in 2012 to $975 million in 2021, an increase of 132% over a ten-year period.
Meanwhile, women artists’ percent share of total sales increased from three percent to six percent. The decade can be divided into three phases, corresponding to three peaks in 2013, 2016 and 2020, respectively. In 2020, women artists’ share reached 6.5%, a ten-year high; in 2021, with the contemporary art market as a whole growing significantly, women artists’ share fell slightly to 6%, remaining on the high end.
2. Distribution of sales between cities
Most of the works by female artists were sold in one of the six metropolises, New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Beijing and Shanghai, with New York, Hong Kong and London each selling over $100 million.
New York held a strong lead over the rest of the cities, with $474 million in sales and 53% in market share. Hong Kong and London were second and third, with $167 million and $136 million in sales, and 18% and 15% in market share. Paris, Beijing and Shanghai sold $59.12 million, $33.53 million and $20.53 million respectively, accounting for 2% to 7% of the female artists market.
Three of the six cities that dominated in sales were in Asia, reflecting the growing interest in female artists in the Asian markets. Hong Kong overtook London for the first time as the second largest city for female artists, displaying a potential that is not to be underestimated. Shanghai also made to the top six, highlighting its active female art market.
3. 10 most expensive works by female artists in 2021, 50% of which over ten million dollars
Of the 10 most expensive works by female artists in 2021, 50% were over ten million dollars and 100% over seven million dollars. Frida Kahlo's Diego y yo (Diego and I) sold for $34.883 million, making it the most expensive work by a female artist in 2021.
In terms of distribution between auction cities, 70% of the lots were sold in New York, while the rest 30% were sold in Asia, two in Hong Kong and one in Shanghai. Shanghai is gradually becoming a new stronghold in the ever-changing landscape of global art market.
In terms of distribution between artists, Yayoi Kusama took two places and Joan Mitchell took three. Works by these two artists have stood the test of the market for many years.
Top 100 Living Female Artists
The global turnover generated by female artists in 2021 reached $975 million, with the top 100 living female artists accounting for 51.5% at $502 million. These 100 female artists also advanced in the global artist ranking; in particular, 63% of the female artists attained a higher rank than last year.
1. Top 100 Living Female Artists - Market Distribution
North America with the most female artists offered at auction, Asia with the highest total turnover
In terms of geographical distribution, North America produced more than half of the top 100 living female artists, far ahead of the rest, while Asia is the main place where the works by these artists were sold. In addition to top-grossing Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Ayako Rokkaku and Chiharu Shiota, Chinese artists such as Yu Hong, Chen Ke and Song Kun accounted for a certain share of the market, while western artists such as Avery Singer, Dana Schutz and Loie Hollowell also made continued success in Asia.
- North America produced 52% of the female artists, and made 36.29% of the sales;
- Asia produced 21% of the female artists, and made 39.98% of the sales;
- Europe produced 19% of the female artists, and made 20.92% of the sales;
- Africa and South America each produced less than 5% of the female artists, and made less than 2% of the sales.
2. Top 100 Living Female Artists - Works Distribution
The number of high-end works grew significantly
In 2021, a total of 2,211 works by the top 100 living female artists were sold at auction. In terms of distribution in different price brackets, 0.05% of the works sold for $10 million, 4.70% sold for $1 million, 23.97% sold for $100,000 to $1 million, and 71.28% sold for less than $100,000.
In general, the high end of the living female artist market grew. In 2021 compared with 2020, more works by the top 100 living female artists sold for high prices, and fewer sold for low prices. In particular, of the works by the top 100 living female artists, the number of $1 million ones increased by 197%, $100,000 to $1 million ones increased by 76%, and those under $100,000 decreased by 12%.
3. Top 100 Living Female Artists - Age Distribution
Post-70s and post-80s generation female artists gained momentum, with the same market share as the female artists from the 1930s
In 2021 compared with 2020, the market share of the top 100 living female artists increased across all age groups, with female artists born before the 1930s experiencing the largest increase in total turnover, followed by the second largest increase for post-80s generation female artists and the third largest increase for post-70s female artists.
Percent shares of the top 100 living female artists in 2021:
- Female artists before 1930 with a percent share of approximately 34%, ranking number one;
- Post-70s and post-80s generation female artists with a combined percent share of approximately 34%, becoming a strong force in the auction market;
- Post-50s and post-60s generation female artists with a combined percent share of approximately 16%;
- Post-30s and post-40s generation female artists with 10% and 4% percent shares, respectively.
4. Top 100 Living Female Artists - Most Popular Artists
Yayoi Kusama won the top-selling living female artist for the tenth consecutive year
In 2021, Yayoi Kusama sold $157,506,743, 2.5 times the amount in 2020, making her the only living female artist to sell over $100 million. In addition, she had a total of 607 works auctioned off in 2021, the highest of the top 100 living female artists, far exceeding that of any other female artist.
Of the 100 most influential living female artists worldwide, Yayoi Kusama has won the top-selling living female artist for ten consecutive years. The 93-year-old Queen of Polka Dots conveys a value that transcends time and space and acceptable by all ages, reflecting her continuous creative endeavors.
5. Top 100 Living Female Artists – Frequent record-breaking
Nearly half of the female artists broke records in 2021, of which 62% are post-70s, post-80s and post-90s generation female artists
Of the top 100 living female artists, 51% set new personal records in 2021, including 9 artists who set new personal records twice, 11 artists who set new personal records three times, 4 artists who set new personal records four times, and 1 artist who set new personal records five times. Of the artists who set new personal records in 2021, 62% are post-70s, post-80s and post-90s generation female artists.
Four post-90s generation female artists made to the 100 most influential living female artists chart by their auction debuts. In particular, Flora Yukhnovich, Allison Zuckerman and Issy Wood’s works were in the $1 million bracket; Rebecca Ness's most expensive work sold for more than $300,000. These young artists are not to be underestimated.
6. Top 100 Living Female Artists - City Distribution
Most artwork sales took place in metropolises such as New York, London, Hong Kong and Beijing. Most of the works by the top 100 living female artists were sold in New York, Hong Kong, London and Shanghai, with New York in the first place, Hong Kong in the second, London in the third, and Shanghai surpassing Beijing to rank the fourth.
7. Top 100 Living Female Artists – Auction House Distribution
Of the turnover generated by the top 100 living female artists in 2021, two auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, had a combined percent share of 83%. Christie's held the first place with a turnover of $2.38 billion, Sotheby's the second place with $2.34 billion, and Phillips the third place with $470 million, accounting for 8% of the total turnover. Bonhams, Poly and Seoul auctions each accounted for 1% to 3%, while the rest of the auction houses each accounted for less than 1%.
Female artists have long been neglected; but in the diverse cultural contexts of today, gender identities are capable of shift and change, and the works by female artists have received increasing attention, with heading female artists outperforming. Let us wait and see if female artists will become the next hot spot in art collection and fuel a market boom in the future.
List of Top 100 Living Female Artists worldwide in 2021 (in order of turnover in 2021)
List of Top 10 Living Chinese Female Artists (in order of turnover in 2021)
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