Phillips is giving Roy Lichtenstein the star treatment this summer in the Hamptons. Does the artist market really have room to grow?


Phillips is shining the spotlight on pop art star Roy Lichtenstein this summer – and providing a burst of energy in what is usually a very quiet part of the art world calendar – with a special sale (until September 6 ) which presents two works once destined for the house of Gianni Versace.

The late fashion designer commissioned the Greco-Roman-inspired works currently offered to Phillips to decorate his Milan home’s studio the same year he was notoriously murdered. They cost between $4 million and $5 million, a representative confirmed.

Diana and Ajax “Encompass many of Lichtenstein’s most important themes, including the female nude, still life, interiors, and architectural motifs,” Robert Manley, global co-head of the 20th Century and Contemporary Art department at Artnet News, told Artnet News. Phillips.

Roy Lichtenstein, Interior with Diana (1997). Image courtesy Phillips.

Six months passed after Versace’s death before his sister, Donatella Versace, was contacted by the artist’s studio and made aware of the existence of the paintings. She quickly had them exhibited in Versace’s New York townhouse.

The works last appeared at auction at Sotheby’s in 2005, when Diana raised $968,000 and Ajax took $688,000.

Alongside these two unique pieces, Phillips presents several other works by the artist, including girl in the mirror (1964) and shipyard girl (1965). All will be displayed at Phillips Southampton (although the accompanying works are not for sale) at a display organized by the auction house’s private sales arm.

Fittingly, Southampton was where Lichtenstein and his second wife Dorothy bought property in 1970, and the house and studio they built there eventually became their primary residence.

Phillips in Southampton.  Photo by Mike Vitelli/BFA.  Image courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips in Southampton. Photo by Mike Vitelli/BFA. Image courtesy of Phillips.

On the occasion of this summer exhibition, we consulted the Artnet price database to better understand the artist’s market.

The context

Auction record: $95.4 million, realized for Nurse (1964) at Christie’s New York on November 9, 2015

Lichtenstein performance in 2021

Lots sold: 443
Purchased in: 57
Sell ​​rate: 87 percent
Average sale price: $256,422
Average estimate: $211,700
Total sales: $113.6 million
Best paint price: $21.5 million for Interior: picture perfect (1990)
Lowest paint price: $68,750 for Top speed (1954)
Lowest Overall Price: $1,625 for As I opened fire (1966), a triptych color lithograph

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.


1. Pop from the private market. Publicly, Lichtenstein’s labor market peaked in 2015, when Nurse (1964) recovered $95.4 million. Privately, the artist’s works have since sold significantly more. Five years ago, Agnes Gund sold Masterpiece (1962), one of Lichtenstein’s greatest masterpieces, for a whopping $165 million to Steve Cohen. (She used $100 million of the proceeds to create the Art for Justice fund.)

2. Girls of the 60s. Lichtenstein’s most prized works date from 1962 to 1964, particularly the artist’s depictions of women in an aesthetic derived from advertising and comic books. Masterpiece and its auction record Nurse both fall into this category and use the artist’s famous Ben-Day dot pattern.

3. The revival of late work. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the artist’s nudes and Ben-Day dots that a later ’90s release revisiting these themes, Joyful painting nude (1994), grossed $46 million from the depths of lockdown in 2020. Consigned, sources say, by former UFC CEO Lorenzo Ferttita, it became the artist’s third most expensive work ever sold at auction. Other late works that could be subject to reassessment include ‘The Interiors’, such as those created for Versace, and ‘Chinese Landscapes’, which depict images inspired by Song dynasty scrolls through fields of drifting points.

4. Affordable prices. Lichtenstein’s Pop Art paintings command the most attention, but he was also a prolific sculptor and printmaker. The artist used a multitude of industrial or “non-artistic” materials and designed mass-produced objects, such as a shopping bag for a 1964 exhibition titled “American Supermarket” at the Paul Bianchini Gallery.. Lichtenstein produced print editions in a wide variety of sizes, but 40, 48, 60, and 200 were particularly common print runs. The high volume of transactions and the variety of prices have brought the artist’s average auction result to less than $300,000 over the past decade.

5. Ongoing interest. Lichtenstein remains one of the most searched artists in the Artnet price database. So far this year, it has generated 12,308 paid searches.

5. Buying opportunities. Historically, Lichtenstein’s demand has remained fairly inside the lines, but market watchers say there is room to grow in his more abstract conceptual works, including his late 1900s proto-pop works. 1950s, his ceramic and painted metal sculptures of the 1960s, his “Stretcher Bars” series and his architecturally focused “Entablature” series.


Roy Lichtenstein, Nude with joyful painting (1994).  Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Roy Lichtenstein, Joyful painting nude (1994). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Lichtenstein received critical and market acclaim during his lifetime. Speak By the end of the 1960s, it had already been the subject of several museum investigations, including those of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Of course, he had his detractors: fierce critics accused Lichtenstein of plagiarizing specific comics, and some remain convinced that he is still unjustly revered today. But the artist continued to create and experiment until his death in 1997, when he fell ill with pneumonia and died suddenly at age 73.

The There is no doubt that Lichtenstein’s place in the canon is firmly established. “Its market is strong, with eight of its top 10 prices having been set in the past 10 years and I don’t see that strength slowing down anytime soon,” Manley said. Granted, the top of the market can dwindle in times of lackluster supply, and the artist’s work is unlikely to surpass the nosebleed heights it has reached in the private market. But as a solid store of value, it has proven itself.

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