Vik Muniz, currently featured in our sale Signature Works, a Brazilian-born photographer, is known for creating photographs that can be best described as illusionary. Initially a sculptor, it was a trip to Saint Kitts in the mid-1990s that inspired the blend of sculpture, photography, and drawing in which he now works. During his time on the island, he encountered families working on sugar plantations, and documented them through a series of Polaroids. After returning to New York, he re-created the Polaroids using sugar to create portraits which he then photographed again—effectively translating them back into their native medium. The resulting Sugar Children series was included in The Museum of Modern Art’s “New Photography” exhibition in 1997, and launched his career as a photographer.
Since then, Muniz has been translating iconic artworks using a lexicon of unusual and sensory-stimulating materials—chocolate, blood, diamonds, garbage, soil, flowers, etc.—and photographing the results.
Muniz’s works first hit the auction block in the mid-1990s; however, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that his market value really began to pick up. Following the trend of the international Post-War and Contemporary art auction market, Muniz’s market saw steady increases in terms of total sales value from the time his works entered the market until the global recession, which hit the art market hardest in 2009. Since that contraction, the total sales value for Muniz recovered, and reached 4.6 million USD in 2013, a 155% increase from 2009.
2014 saw a slight drop in total sales value; however, demand remained steady and the average price per work remained high. According to the artnet Price Database Fine Art and Design, over 1,250 lots by Muniz have been offered at auction since the early 90s, with high demand overall as the average sell-through rate surpasses 74%. Average prices also saw dramatic increases over the past years, with a notable jump of 98% between 2006 and 2007. Since this spike, averages have remained relatively consistent, hovering around 45,000 USD and maxing at 57,000 USD in 2011.
Last month The Sugar Children: Valentina, the Fastest; Jacynthe Loves Orange Juice; Big James Sweats Buckets; Lil’ Calist Can’t Swim; Valicia Bathes in Sunday Clothes; Ten Ten’s Weed Necklace (1996) became the highest selling lot by the artist. The six photographs sold for a collective 293,000 USD at Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session. Appropriated from Warhol’s iconic Marilyn series, Muniz’s Bloody Marilyn (2001) tops the auction market for an individual work by the artist. It surpassed its presale estimates of 150,000–200,000 USD, selling for 266,500 USD in 2009. A complete list of Muniz’s top five lots can be seen below:
To learn more about the auction market for Vik Muniz, or any photographer, please contact artnet Analytics at [email protected].