What to Bid On

Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's

New York’s contemporary spring auctions begin May 12. And certain artists who came to prominence between the sixties and the eighties are well worth a look (for those with a rather sizable amount of cash on the sidelines), in large part because their work has weathered past busts and shows every sign of future desirability. Museums could want some of these pieces one day, which is usually an excellent reason for private collectors to covet them first.

Frank Stella
Why it’s undervalued: Well, he’s Frank Stella, and though his “early works are selling for a lot, overall his work is, in my view, very much undervalued,” says Simon de Pury of Phillips de Pury auction house.

What’s on the block: Never before seen at auction is Doubled Mitered Maze (1967), below, with an estimate of $1.2 to $ 1.8 million, May 12 at Sotheby’s, part of Stella’s celebrated “Concentric Squares” and “Mitered Mazes” series.

Also available: two “Concentric Squares” series works, both titled Untitled (1961) at Christie’s on May 14. Both carry estimates of $100,000 to $150,000.

Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Bridget Riley
Why it’s undervalued:This is an opportunity to “get a great artist at a discount price,” says art adviser Mary Hoeveler. Op Art artist Bridget Riley’s prices rose during the boom, but not wildly, she adds. They weren’t “hyperinflated.” Now, however, they’ve come down some. Hoeveler points to the recent sale of Riley’s Gala, which went for $1.07 million, but which in a boom time might—justifiably—fetch $2 million.

What’s on the block: Two less-important pieces, Orpheus Study 22 (1978), right, and Twisted Curve with Neutral Grey, Dark (1976), each with an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000, May 14 at Christie’s.

Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Eric Fischl
Why it’s undervalued: Fischl’s appeal lies in his limited output: There simply aren’t a huge number of his works on the marketplace, and his paintings come to auction relatively infrequently. Plus, his prices never really shot up during the boom, but “if you take a mid- to long-term perspective, his market price has to be adjusted as going up,” given his significance, says Simon de Pury.

What’s on the block: Dog Days (1983), above, on sale at Christie’s May 13, with an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. True, the estimate is on Fischl’s high end, but the painting—which “buzzes with a strange sexual tension,” as per Christie’s catalog copy—is an early work that was shown in the same 1986 Whitney Museum show as Fischl’s record-setting work Daddy’s Girl (which sold for $1.92 million in 2006), and it has never before appeared on the secondary market.

Photo: Courtesy of Philips de Pury

Donald Judd
Why it’s undervalued: “If you’re looking for segments that are underperforming right now and shouldn’t be, the first one that comes to mind is minimalism,” says David Zwirner. “Whether it’s Judd or Flavin or LeWitt, they’re in all the history books, but their prices seem to be much lower than they should be. And museums, if they do not own this work already, will want to own this work. I think there’s value there.”

What’s on the block: Untitled 88-27 (1988), above, May 14 at Phillips de Pury (estimate: $500,000-$700,000); Untitled (DSS 219) (1970), May 13 at Christie’s (estimate: $600,000-$800,000); Untitled 1977 (77-19 bernstein), May 14 at Christie’s (estimate: $300,000-$400,000).

What to Bid On