Even at 91 years of age, Bridget Riley continues to make moves in the contemporary art market.
So far in 2022, auction sales of the modern British artist's work have seen record top prices achieved under the hammer. In this article, we take a closer look at some of these sales, and the Bridget Riley prints and originals market in 2022.
Much loved British painter Riley has long been the uncontested Queen of Op Art - an experimental art movement birthed in London's counter-cultural scene during the swinging sixties. Her desire to see that the viewer experience new 'ways of seeing' - a phrase coined by art historian and theorist John Berger and adopted by much loved British artist, David Hockney - saw her break down boundaries and upturn museums and their visitors, who were used to the fixed perspectives of traditional paintings.
Major exhibitions and solo shows in London, Japan, and New Zealand did much to prove that Riley is more relevant than ever in the present day.
However, bridging the gap between fine art and illusion, Riley's work has attracted fresh interest from galleries, the art world, and general public alike. In recent years, a whole host of new buyers have been led to discover the work of this artistic legend, with unprecedented demand causing the value of Riley's artwork to skyrocket.
A multitude of auction houses have hosted sales of original Riley artworks in 2022, with some of these sales seeing the artist's work sell for record prices.
Gala (1974) - £4,362,000 - Christie's, 22 March 2022
A standout original example of Op Art, this highly complex, record-breaking work is instantly recognisable as Riley's own.
Comprising tightly-packed lines of illusion-inducing colours (green and red; red and blue), the work harnesses the power of a visual illusion effect named chromostereopsis. This gives the painting's wave-like form a movement that both tricks and cleanses the eye.
Gala (1974) sold for a huge sum of money - £4,362,000 - at Christie's in March 2022, almost doubling the lower bound of its pre-auction estimate of £2,500,000-£3,500,000 and setting a new auction record for the second most expensive original Bridget Riley painting ever sold.
Tinct (1972) -£2,334,000 - Sotheby’s, 29 June 2022
A beautiful example of Riley's engagement with a range of vertical forms, Tinct was produced just 12 years after the artist's experimentations with pointillism.
Riley's 1960 painting Pink Landscape, one of her most famous, was influenced by her love for French Impressionist Georges Seurat. In 1961, just the following year, Riley visited the Venice Biennale and abandoned pointillism, producing Movement In Squares (1961) - a seminal work that would see her delve deeper into illusion and abstraction.
Bearing the trace of that Biennale visit, Tinct realised a stunning £2,334,000 under the hammer at Sotheby's in June 2022.
Lilac Between - £1,487,000 -Sotheby’s, 29 June 2022
Lilac Between is the product of Riley's 1979-80 holiday in Egypt. It realised £1,487,000 at Sotheby's in June 2022.
An escape from the cold and wet of England, Riley's travels in the country introduced her to a pastel colour palette.
The original artwork, painted on linen rather than canvas, features a series of Riley's distinctive vertical lines, each filled with bold 'Egyptian' colours.
It's not just the originals market that is seeing new price records set for Riley artworks in 2022: this year so far, the prints and multiples market has seen 4 stand-out Riley sales take place in 4 different auction houses.
Untitled (Fragment 7) - £35,280 - Christie’s, 24 March 2022
At a Christie's online auction held in March of 2022, Untitled (Fragment 7) realised £35,280, overtaking its pre-sale estimate of £15,000-£25,000 by over £10,000 and making it the most expensive Riley print sale in 2022 so far.
The screen print on Plexiglas was completed in 1965, during a period when Riley was experimenting with a bold, epoch-defining colour scheme: monochrome.
Part of Riley's Fragment series, the work was later exhibited at the seminal The Responsive Eye exhibition, held at MoMA in New York in 1964.
This history-making event birthed Riley's first solo show, held at London's Richard Feigen Gallery in the same year, and helped to make the artist an overnight sensation.
Untitled (Fragment 3) - £31,500 - Bonham’s, 3 March 2022
Another print from Riley's Fragment series, Untitled (Fragment 3) is made after a painting completed by the artist in 1965, one year after her appearance in MoMA's The Responsive Eye exhibition.
A dynamic component of Riley's goal to free 'colour and form from all descriptive and functional roles', the screen print on plexiglass sold for £31,500 at Bonhams in March 2022.
Fragment 5 - £24,974 - William Doyle NY, 26 April 2022
An interactive work 'completed' by the viewer's own perception, Fragment 5 also belongs to Riley's 1960s Fragment series.
Semicircular in its form, an unknown buyer bagged the print for a stunning £24,974 at William Doyle NY on the 26th of April '22.
Throughout the creation of the Fragment series, Riley saw her images as tools to unlock sense perception. For the artist, it was like 'pushing a boat out into the sea [...] It must do the best it can by itself, which is to offer an experience.'
Untitled (Fragment 6) - £22,750 - Bonhams, 3 March 2022
Quite unlike other works in the Fragment series, Riley's Untitled (Fragment 6) realised £22,750 at auction at Bonhams in March 2022.
Eliciting visual 'play', the work comprises a number of black 'dots', geometrically arranged in a pattern.
The simplicity of the print directly engages the viewer, making it clear that it is only them who is able to unlock its true potential.
In 2019, an enormous Riley mural was unveiled at London's National Gallery. Entitled Messengers - a reference to English Romantic painter John Constable - it measured 10 x 20 metres and was painted directly onto the museum wall. The mural attracted a string of visitors, contributing to Riley's market growth.
In 2021, Riley brought her year to a close as the subject of a major BBC 2 documentary film entitled Bridget Riley - Painting the Line. A retrospective glance at Riley's 60 year-long career and her monumental contribution to the arts, the programme was presented by Kirsty Walk of Newsnight fame and featured the likes of Michael Craig-Martin (Julian Opie's former tutor and artist in his own right), Martin Freeman, and Tracey Emin. A popular reminder of Riley's innovation and artistic genius, the documentary made sure that the artist's 2022 was off to a strong start.
This year, in 2022, Riley has been the subject of a major exhibition at Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern. Held between June and late August of this year, the solo show focuses on an influential trip Riley made to Egypt in 1979. It was in amongst the desert sand and lapis lazuli of the Valley of the Kings that Riley became attracted to colour, namely red, blue, yellow, turquoise, green, black and white. Upon her return to the UK, Riley abandoned her monochrome palette, immediately beginning the stripe-focused KA series.
In 2022, galleries in the United States have been particularly attracted to Riley's defiantly modern and cutting edge paintings, with her work appearing in two acclaimed collections on the country's East Coast.
In July '22, Riley was the subject of a solo show at the Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut entitled Perceptual Abstraction.
Earlier this year, in the February-May season, Riley's installation One-on-One was exhibited at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC.
For the installation, Riley selected two paintings — Red Overture (2012) and Red with Red 1 (2007) — and one screen print — One Small Step (2009) — displaying them opposite Pierre-Auguste Renoir's iconic Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81)
Placing the two artists in dialogue with one another, this small-scale exhibition of Riley's work directly references its art historical foundations, particularly the impact that 19th-century French painters have had on her wider œuvre.
[For more facts on Riley's relationship to the art historical canon, read our artist A-Z here.]
Far from passé, Riley continues to wow audiences and investors internationally; although at a late stage in her career, the artist is definitely one to watch.
A solid and dependable investment opportunity, Riley's work looks set to appreciate in terms of value in the second half of 2022 and is sure to find a buyer.
Browse our Bridget Riley prints for sale or get a valuation here.
Discover more about the print market in 2022 in our Contemporary Print Market Report.