Jasper Johns Value: Top Prices Paid At Auction

Sheena Carrington
written by Sheena Carrington,
Date of publication12 Jun 2024
Last updated4 Jul 2024
Flags I by Jasper Johns 1973 - MyArtBroker Flags I © Jasper Johns 1973
Jess Bromovsky

Jess Bromovsky, Sales Director[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
Jasper Johns?

Browse artworks
Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns

71 works

Jasper Johns, a pivotal figure in Post War and Contemporary art, created some of his most influential pieces in the 1950s and 1960s, employing a distinctive encaustic hot wax technique. Renowned for his conceptual approach, Johns transformed ordinary objects into captivating material manifestations, challenging conventional representations. The market for his works has remained robust, with pieces emerging on the secondary market from esteemed private collections including Paul G. Allen's and The Macklowe Collection. Since the 1980s, Johns' artworks have consistently fetched high seven to eight-figure prices, demonstrating enduring relevance and value, as evidenced by significant sales in late 2022, reaffirming his enduring impact on the art world.

£48.6M for Small False Start

($55,350,000 USD)

Abstract canvas by Jasper Johns featuring hues of yellow, orange, red, blue, and grey. Stenciled words in contrasting spray-painted colours overlay the abstracted background.Image © Christie's / Small False Start © Jasper Johns 1960

Small False Start (1960), a captivating creation by Johns, displays his expertise in collage and encaustic painting techniques. Using torn paper and his trademark wax and pigment mixture, Johns crafts visually striking and technically ambitious artwork. Within it, he explores the relationship between materiality and colour, overlaying stencilled words with paint. Known for his versatility, Johns blends abstraction with conceptualism, incorporating linguistic elements. A notable feature in this work is the deliberate misalignment between words and colours, symbolising artistic innovation. Since its market debut in 1989, Small False Start has garnered acclaim exceeding a substantial price tag of over $4 million (USD). Later, it achieved a momentous milestone in the distinguished Paul G. Allen sale, where it shattered previous auction records for Johns, commanding an impressive price of £4.8 million with fees.

£33.4M for Flags

($41,000,000 USD)

Flags by Jasper Johns - Sotheby's Image © Sotheby's / Flags © Jasper Johns 1986

In the November 2023 New York sales, Johns's Flags (1976) made its debut in the secondary market from the esteemed Emily Fisher Landau collection, marking its first appearance since 1987. A testament to both painterly and conceptual prowess, Johns' Flags stands as a monumental emblem within his oeuvre. Crafted using oil and encaustic wax on canvas, Johns' doubles the iconic red, white, and blue palette. Achieving £33.3 million, it became the second-highest lot of the sale, surpassing Johns' previous record set in 2014.

£22.7M for Flag

($36,005,000 USD)

Painting of the American flag by Jasper Johns, showcasing a textured paint application. The artwork displays 13 alternating red and white stripes and 50 white stars set against a blue rectangle positioned in the upper left corner.

Flag (1960-1966) stands as the pinnacle of Johns' illustrious artistic repertoire. Beyond its commercial facade, this piece holds profound artistic significance, realised through Johns' innovative collage and painting technique, fusing disparate materials from the American flag onto its surface. Initially, it presents as a recognisable symbol of commodification and glorification. Yet, it embodies the pervasive concept of “American-ness” that defined the Post War era, resonating through contemporary culture. Serving as a defining moment in Johns' career, this work has a solo appearance on the secondary market, fetching a remarkable sale at Christie's in May 2010, amid an art market revival, solidifying its status as an invaluable cultural icon fetching £19.1 million.

£16.3M for Grey Rectangles

($21,125,000 USD)

A gray abstract canvas by Jasper Johns displaying expressive brushwork in different tones, featuring three positioned rectangles in the lower section of the artwork.Image © Christie's / Gray Rectangles © Jasper Johns 1957

Gray Rectangles (1957) showcases Johns' encaustic monochrome technique, embodying a pivotal period in his artistic evolution. Noteworthy is Johns' transformative use of encaustic, involving mixing pigments with wax, transcending abstraction to emphasise texture and render the painting as a distinct object. Positioned within the canvas are three rectangles, their presence fragmented yet cohesive. Through paint application, they merge into a unified entity, offering a conceptual perception. Johns explored the interplay between paint and depicted object, presenting the canvas as a sculptural presence. Gray Rectangles achieved £16.2 million (fees included) at Christie's in November 2018, underscoring its significance within Johns' oeuvre.

£15.4M for Numbers

($17,565,000 USD)

Making its auction debut, Numbers, conceptualised in 1963 and cast in 1968, presents a series of digits from 0 to 9 sprawled across a silver canvas. Reflecting Johns' transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art, the work explores the interplay between open-ended interpretation, art historical periods, and modern abstraction through its gridded composition and repetition. Emerging from the esteemed Paul G. Allen collection for the first time since 2001 and acquired directly from the artist, this piece fetched £15.4 million, solidifying its position among Johns' most valuable works.

£10.4M for Usuyuki

($11,840,000 USD)

 An abstract canvas characterised by pink, blue, green, and yellow pastel shades infused with a wash of grey, displaying carved paint in a cross-hatching pattern. The artwork is divided into three distinct rectangular sections.Image © Christie's / Usuyuki © Jasper Johns 1979-1981

Usuyuki (1979-1981), a later piece by Johns boasting a distinguished Paul G. Allen provenance, emerges a decade post his iconic Flag and False Start series, signalling a persistent exploration of artistic materiality through his signature encaustic technique. This triptych diverges from representational art, delving into non-representation, emphasising repetition and order. Though seemingly minimalist, vibrant energy pulsates within geometric cross-hatching and scattered circles. Johns employs a subdued rainbow palette subtly washed with greys and blues, its significance heightened by the title “Usuyuki,” Japanese for “light snow.” Evoking Post War artists like Pollock, Usuyuki engages with creation's physicality through material selection. At Christie's in November 2022, Usuyuki fetched an impressive £10.4 million with fees.

£10.1M for Flag

($13,056,700 USD)

 A canvas featuring an American flag motif by Jasper Johns, displaying red and white stripes alongside stars on a blue background, all washed with a dark gray hue that reveals the expressive brushstroke marks.Image © Sotheby's / Flag © Jasper Johns 1994

In the latter part of his esteemed career, Johns revisited his iconic emblem painting, Flag, captivating audiences since its vibrant encaustic rendition in 1960-1966. Six decades later, Johns infused the work with new depth by veiling the once bold colours in a dark grey-scale acrylic wash. This transformative act grants viewers freedom in interpretation, symbolising either a removal of “American-ness” or reflecting socio-political and cultural shifts. Yet, the essence of the work lies in the motif itself, redefined through varied materials. The dark grey palette imbues a lustrous sheen, with silver undertones adding a luxurious touch, offering a fresh perspective on familiar imagery. Flag (1994) achieved a notable sale surpassing £10 million at Sotheby's in November 2008, underscoring its significance in Post War and Contemporary art.

£9.6M for False Start

($17,050,000 USD)

An abstract canvas with vibrant red, orange, yellow, and blue gestural markings, where the words of the colours are stencilled over in contrasting shades against the abstract background.Image © Christie's / False Start © Jasper Johns 1959

False Start (1959) pulsates with explosive vitality and rich conceptual depth, defying categorisation as purely abstract. Rather, it beckons viewers to decipher its kaleidoscopic colours through linguistic cues, offering layers of interpretation. This series holds profound significance within Johns' artistic journey, inspiring later adaptations and compositions characterised by muted tones. Johns' market prowess has been evident since the 1980s, with his works consistently commanding significant prices. False Start achieved a remarkable £9.5 million (with fees) at Christie's in November 1988, remaining one of Johns' top-selling works.

£8.8M for Figure 4

($17,400,000 USD )

Abstract canvas with dynamic brushstrokes in yellow, red, orange, green, and blue, forming a large "4" amidst the abstract patterns.Image © Christie's / Figure Four © Jasper Johns 1959

Johns' Figure Paintings series prompts viewers, as with much of his oeuvre, to perceive the painting as an object unto itself. The series amalgamates colour as material to depict the physicality of a painting, challenging the concept of representation through the depiction of the number “4”. Some pieces in this series feature vibrant colours, while others adopt a monochromatic palette all featuring individual numbers emerging through abstraction. Figure Four (1959) achieved £8.7 million (with fees) at Christie's in May 2007, exemplifying the series' impact and Johns' continued exploration of representation and materiality.

£8.6M for Decoy

($10,760,000 USD)

Mixed media artwork by Jasper Johns featuring predominantly gray gestural painting with a soft blue hue at the upper edge. The canvas displays stencilled, indecipherable words atop the abstract composition, while rectangular drawings and etchings adorn the lower edge.Image © Christie's / Decoy © Jasper Johns

Through mixed media, Decoy (1971) blends visual cues, referencing Johns' False Start and Flag series with stencilled words and gestural paint. Gray rectangles at the bottom echo his Gray Rectangles works. Central to the composition is a Ballantine beer can, famously featured in Johns' Painted Bronze (1960), symbolising Pop Art's exploration of consumerism and reproduction. Decoy serves as a visual diary, encapsulating Johns' artistic essence across different periods. From the prestigious S.I. Newhouse Collection, it fetched £8.6 million (with fees) at Christie's in May 2023, attesting to Johns' enduring influence and appeal among affluent collectors.

Jess Bromovsky

Jess Bromovsky, Sales Director[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
Jasper Johns?

Browse artworks
Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns

71 works