Louise Nevelson Symphony Three


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Louise Nevelson: A Portrait between Pioneering Spirit and Investment Potential

There are few women artists who have left such a significant mark on the art world as Louise Nevelson did. A pioneer of large-scale installation art, she created works that revolutionised the relationship between viewer and artwork. In honour of her birthday on the 23rd of September, we are delighted to bring you one of her fascinating works, Symphony Three, for the first time on Timeless.

Louise Nevelson – Symphony Three (1974)

Symphony Three is Nevelson’s largest resin sculpture, embodying her unmistakable matt black, monochrome style.

But what makes Nevelson’s art a lucrative investment opportunity? Here are the most exciting facts.

Louise Nevelsons History

Born in Ukraine in 1899, Louise Nevelson emigrated to the US and established herself as one of the most significant figures in 20th-century art. After studying with the influential painter and teacher Hans Hofmann, Nevelson began creating her signature large-scale installations of wood, furniture fragments and crates in the mid-1950s. Museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum quickly recognised her talent and acquired her works long before the decade ended. In the 1960s and 1970s in particular, she achieved a status comparable to greats like Andy Warhol. 

Louise Nevelsons Style

Louise Nevelson is known for her large-scale, expansive assemblages of wood, most of which she painted monochrome, often in black. These monumental works are deeply rooted in movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Cubism and Constructivism and reveal her preference for geometric forms and the play of light and shadow.

Her use of pieces of wood, furniture fragments and boxes is a testament to her intuitive sense of material and form. Each piece in her work seems carefully selected and placed, creating complex, multi-layered structures that encourage the viewer to pause and reflect. Her use of monochrome, particularly deep black, gives the works a unified mood while making them seem mysterious and profound. Nevelson’s fascination with the colour black she once explained as follows:

“It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors.”

Investment Potential

Impressive Auction Results

Louise Nevelson’s art received significant recognition not only during her lifetime, but also posthumously. Her work “Floating Cloud VII” from 1977 achieved an impressive $1.4 million at Christie’s in 2021. But this is just one highlight in a series of notable sales. In the same year, Nevelson’s secondary market reached a record auction volume of US$7.5 million, testifying to the continuous and increasing demand for her work. Her art is not only aesthetically impressive, but also represents an attractive investment option that both collectors and investors have recognised.

Women Power in the Art Market:

Recent developments mark a turning point for the recognition of women in the art market. The total value of works by female artists sold at auction increased by a staggering +72.9% between 2012 and 2018, while the value of works by male artists only grew by +8.3% over the same period. By 2022, the market for deceased female artists even shows an increase of a full +109%, which highlights the ongoing potential.

It was not until early November 2023 that her black wooden sculpture Large Cryptic I was auctioned at Sotheby’s for 82,550 US dollars as part of the Emily Fisher Landau sale (the most valuable auction ever dedicated to a female collector) – the result was over 4 times the expected value of 12,000 – 18,000 US dollars.

The HNW Collector Report by Art Basel & UBS shows that although overall spending on works by women was lower in 2022 and 2023, those with a minimum annual spend of USD 10 million tended to hold a higher proportion (54%) of works by women artists in their collections, rising from 46% in 2021 to 55% in 2023. This suggests that among extremely wealthy investors, some of the highest sums were paid for works by women.

Museum exhibitions, galleries, art fairs and auctions have recently focused on the works of women. An outstanding example was the Venice Biennale, “The Milk of Dreams”, curated by Cecilia Alemani. Almost half of the exhibited works were by deceased women, while only 10% of the exhibited artists identified themselves as male.

The exhibition was emblematic of the prevailing trends that have emerged in recent years regarding women artists, both institutionally and commercially. This trend is also reflected in the rapid rise of the secondary market for works by women artists, including record-breaking sale prices for works by Nevelson.

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Art as a top performer in luxury investment: Read our Knight Frank Luxury Report article to find out all about developments in individual asset classes.