We often get asked, who are Australia’s most collectable artists? Which artists are worth investing in, will maintain or accrue value and when the time comes, sell with relative ease?
While the term “collectable” speaks to notions beyond the numerical – such as cultural, aesthetic, social and historic value – it is often used as a placeholder for “tradable”. In art market parlance, tradability is the convergence of volume and value; put simply, who sells on the secondary market and for how much?
This formula produces a list of famous Australian artists. At the top is the art of Brett Whiteley, which since 1969 has sold at auction 2,487 times, generating a staggering $175,936,322. Next is Arthur Boyd at 4,087 works with almost $130 million in revenue. Present too are Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Charles Blackman, John Brack, Russell Drysdale and beloved bon vivant, John Olsen.
Fred Williams - 'Acacias'
Brett Whiteley - 'The Lovers'
What affects whether an artist is tradable?
The art market, like all marketplaces, is a complex ecosystem. It can fall prone to chance, luck and intuition – come auction night, the stars may align or diverge for an artist, leading to splendour or stumbles. Generally speaking, however, the most traded artists stay relatively stable in value.
If fluctuations do occur, they’re often attributable to issues around rarity, public interest, provenance or the popularity of a time period.
Charles Blackman - 'Nude'
Collecting Tradable Artists
It is never advisable to collect art with only tradability in mind. It is too tricky to determine a work’s future value, and too dull to let the market overwhelm your heart. That said, collecting tradable artists can operate like an insurance policy. When or if the time comes, these artists can find new custodians with relative ease. They’re steady assets.
If you want expert advice for acquiring or selling a prized piece, you can always engage us. We offer Market Reports for pre-purchase and resale, as well as ongoing support as fine art consultants.
Sidney Nolan - 'Study for Snake'
What the numbers miss
There are glaring absences in Australia’s top ten most traded artists, namely women and Aboriginal artists. This is not a reflection of quality – women and Aboriginal artists continue to pioneer some of the country’s most exciting and esteemed art – but rather how slow the market is to adapt.
Soon enough, women and Aboriginal artists will break into the top ten most traded artists – Emily Kame Kyngwarreye currently tops Australia’s most traded female artists at 839 works against nearly $40 million, and Cressida Campbell continues to soar at auction; Lin Onus too, had found impassioned attention.
Lin Onus - 'Pitoa Garkman (Blue Frogs)'
In the meantime, you can support the evolution needed for a healthy cultural ecosystem by championing voices outside the loudest ones. The market is an aggregation of people and choices, collectors navigating risk alongside vision – recognise your voice here.
Tradability can be reduced to numbers: how many works sold and for how much. Unpicking the forces spurring these numbers however, is a far murkier task. The artists at the echelons struck a chord with the public that continues to reverberate in the marketplace, where an enduring audience gathers to share and discover masterpieces.
Cressida Campbell - 'Seeds'