The Kent-based painter Rose Wylie has seen enormous institutional success in the past few years, and commercially the tide looks to be turning too. The New York dealer David Zwirner has announced he now represents the octogenarian artist (b. 1934), who has a solo show of new works opening at the Serpentine Galleries in London later this month.
“Recently Rose’s critical success has been mirrored with commercial success, and her work has gained global interest during this time,” says Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal, an associate director at Zwirner.
In the past year alone, Wylie’s paintings have sold for between $50,000 and $150,000, while works on paper have typically fetched from $3,000 to $10,000, Von Hofmannsthal says. Such prices mark a steep jump from her only auction result: £1,900 for a canvas sold in 2013.
Zwirner’s latest addition reflects a growing trend in the market and wider art world for the reappraisal of mature artists, particularly women, who have traditionally been overlooked. Wylie herself has acknowledged that she was discovered late, having chosen to raise a family while her husband taught, painted and wrote to support them.
“If Rose had been a young artist emerging between 2003 and 2013 and she had had the same amount of success, the art market would no doubt have capitalised in some way,” Von Hofmannsthal says. “But maybe because of her age or the fact she was not part of a scene, her route and ambition have been very pure.”
Wylie was previously represented by Union Gallery, a small space in the East End of London, which recently let go of its roster of artists. “Union Gallery has been instrumental in introducing me to Rose and helping manage the studio,” Von Hofmannsthal says. He visited Wylie a handful of times before inviting her to exhibit at Zwirner’s London gallery last November.
The show sold out immediately. “It was a massive hit, and it became apparent how many curators and museums followed her. Clients were bowled over at the idea that this is an artist in her 80s,” the dealer says, noting that the gallery is planning a solo show of Wylie’s works next spring.
“Rose’s trajectory is fascinating, especially when you look at her in context to the rest of the art world and market. Like her painting, she defies logic."