Alex Katz Value: Top Prices Paid at Auction

The Swimmer by Alex KatzThe Swimmer © Alex Katz 1974
Celine Thompson

Celine Thompson, Post Sales & Logistics Manager[email protected]

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Alex Katz

Alex Katz

193 works

Alex Katz's prominence in the art market was notably underscored by a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2022, coinciding with the peak of his market. His art market dynamics are substantially influenced by the creation years of his artworks, with a particular emphasis on pieces from the 1970s and 1980s, constituting the most sought-after and highest-valued works in his oeuvre.

This specific category of works has demonstrated the potential to yield median realised compound annual returns of up to 10%, further accentuating their value over extended ownership periods. While his painting market takes the lead, Katz's print market is experiencing parallel success, with prices soaring to as high as £100,000.

Below are Alex Katz's top ten most valuable works to sell at auction.

£3.4M for Blue Umbrella 1

Blue Umbrella 1 by Alex KatzImage © Phillips / Blue Umbrella I © Alex Katz 1972

The first of a set of 2 paintings of the same title, Blue Umbrella is one of Katz’s most important works. It depicts his wife Ada, a subject whom he has depicted over 200 times since their marriage, sheltered by the angled umbrella itself, which frames her despondent gaze. The rain, palette and close composition of the work add to its sense of intimacy, and one cannot help but question Ada’s elusivity and what could she possibly be thinking?

The most expensive Katz painting to date, this work sold for a hammer price of £2,800,000 at Phillips London on the 2nd October 2019. Timeless and mysterious, it captures the essence of Katz’s bold painterly aesthetic and ambiguous yet familiar portrait style.

£2.4M for The Red Band


The Red Band by Alex Katz Image © Sotheby's / The Red Band © Alex Katz 1978

Once again a portrait of Katz’s wife Ada, The Red Band encapsulates the almost impossible combination of ambiguity and familiarity that has come to define the artist’s work. Bold colours and limited compositional line work show us two profiles of the sitter, not quite reflections, but clearly the same woman, who remains characterised by her distanced, enigmatic expression despite the closely cropped composition here.

Recently sold for £2,439,355 at Sotheby’s New York on October 28th 2020, The Red Band is particularly emblematic of Katz’s unique mode of realism. The ostensible simplicity of his painting draws us in, only to leave us questioning the motives of both painter and sitter. As Donald Kuspit so aptly summarises: “ For all their everydayness, Katz’s figures have a sense of ambient strangeness to them, suggesting the mystery of their inner existence, perhaps even to themselves.”

£2.0M for East Interior


East Interior by Alex KatzImage © Sotheby's / East Interior © Alex Katz 1979

Alex Katz's alluring muse and wife Ada Katz makes another appearance of many in his 1979 painting East Interior. Ada stands against the window of the artistic couple's Maine home, a soft, golden glow gently setting her face alight. Katz gives a glimpse of what lies beyond the window, a moon of golden bronze rises high against the night sky. "She's a classic American beauty," Katz describes of his wife. "She's also a European beauty."

Katz executed East Interior alongside its sister West Interior, but East Interior certainly outperforms the latter. Fetching £2million at the Contemporary Evening Auction on 19 May 2022 in Sotheby's, New York, East Interior exceeded their presale estimates of £1.2-1.6million.

£2.0M for Rackstraw And Pamela


Rackstraw And Pamela by Alex KatzImage © Sotheby's / Rackstraw And Pamela © Alex Katz 1976

At six feet tall, Katz's 1976 Rackstraw And Pamela depict Katz's friend and fellow painter Rackstraw Downes and his then-wife, Pamela Berkley. The stunning vista of the Maine coast serves as Katz's chosen backdrop once more, saturated in brown and blue hues. The artist masterfully elicits a form of closeness and intimacy between the two subjects as Rackstraw engages in an affable conversation with his wife.

Achieving £2 million at a Contemporary Evening Auction on 19 May 2022 in Sotheby's, New York, the sale of Rackstraw And Pamela exceeded its lowest estimate of £1,600,010.

£2.0M for Red Band

($2,470,000 USD)

Red Band by Alex Katz - Christie's 2023 Image © Christie's / Red Band © Alex Katz 1978

Katz's Red Band (1978) serves as a quintessential representation of his mature artistic style. Renowned for his skill in creating flat compositions, Katz masterfully blends his deep art historical knowledge with his signature subject matter, always adding a touch of pop art flair. In this particular piece, it's the striking red band adorning the subject's hat that catches the eye.

Katz's artworks from the 1970s are highly coveted in the art market, consistently fetching top prices at auctions. Red Band is no exception, as it achieved an impressive sale price of £1.9 million in May 2023 making it a standout piece in his illustrious career.

£1.9M for The Grey Dress

($2,208,000 USD)

The Grey Dress by Alex Katz - Phillips Image © Phillips / The Grey Dress © Alex Katz 1982

Phillips New York presented Katz's The Grey Dress in November 2022. This expansive triptych, completed in 1982, showcases three women elegantly donning different shades of grey dresses. Katz's keen understanding of colour is on full display as each distinct grey hue contrasts with the rosy tones of their skin.

The models, each engaging the viewer with their gaze, exude a timeless and classic aura in both their attire and poses. The Grey Dress remains one of Katz's largest works to ever appear at auction, emphasising the brilliance of this piece. It achieved an impressive sale price of £1.8 million, underscoring its significance in Katz's oeuvre and the art market.

£1.7M for Parrot Jungle

($1,986,000 USD)

Parrot Jungle by Alex Katz - Sotheby's 1985 Image © Sotheby's / Parrot Jungle © Alex Katz 1985

Parrot Jungle (1985) is a portrayal of Katz's beloved muse, his wife Ada. In this artwork, Ada reclines on a chaise, her gaze directed towards the viewer but without direct eye contact. She wears a vibrant yellow sweatshirt bearing the words “Parrot Jungle,’’ embodying the pop art element that Katz often highlights in his works, showcasing his fascination with fashion.

This portrait delves into several distinct elements, including the intricate pattern on Ada's collar that contrasts with her sweatshirt, the eye-catching zig-zag pillow she rests upon, and the warm yellow-ochre backdrop. Artworks featuring Ada consistently rank among Katz's most sought-after pieces, as evidenced by the impressive sale price of £1.7 million at Sotheby's in November 2022, reaffirming her significance in Katz's oeuvre and the art market.

£1.4M for Ada in front of 4PM

($1,740,000 USD)

Ada in front of 4PM by Alex Katz - Christie's 2023Image © Christie's / Ada in front of 4PM © Alex Katz 1977

Ada in Front of 4PM is part of Katz's 1970s collection, specifically created in 1977. In this particular portrait, Katz captures a side profile of his wife, her shoulder-length brown hair gracefully obscuring most of her facial features.

In March 2023, this artwork made its second appearance at auction. Initially acquired at Sotheby's in 2002 for $163,500 (USD), it resurfaced at Christie's in 2023, achieving a remarkable sale price of £1.4 million. This significant increase in sales value, marking a 10.6 rise, reflects the enduring appeal and value of Katz's work, particularly in the context of Ada's timeless presence as a recurring muse.

£1.3M for January 2


January 2 by Alex KatzImage © Sotheby's / January 2 © Alex Katz 1972

This large scale oil on linen work depicts the face of Katz’s favourite muse - his wife Ada- set against a sharp, graphic portrayal of wintry trees in Central Park. The strange composition of the work makes the figure seem as if she has been inserted in a film reel, or as if the canvas itself has been spliced together - Katz’s sharp, bold line composition taken to the extreme.

Sold for £1,317,162 at Sotheby's New York on 15th November 2019, this painting retains the air of ambiguity so central to Katz’s style, yet also nods to quintessential American iconography, namely the greys of Central Park and New York.

£1.3M for Eric and Anni

($1,500,000 USD)

Eric and Anni by Alex Katz 1983Image © Christie's / Eric and Anni © Alex Katz 1983

Katz's Eric and Anni (1983) beautifully captures an intimate moment shared between two individuals. Despite being rendered in a flat, two-dimensional perspective, the portrait exudes vitality thanks to the tender emotions it conveys.

Known for his meticulous attention to detail, Katz ensures that every element shines in this artwork. He highlights the intricate chained necklace adorning the woman's neck, the subtle patterns on the man's checked shirt, and the unique design of the aubergine-coloured wall serving as a backdrop to the couple.

In addition to his wife, Katz found joy in portraying his closest friends. This particular piece, among his top-selling works, achieved £1.2 million in November 2022.

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