A Rising Thiebaud Market Awaits a Big New Test: Analysis

Wayne Thiebaud, Four Pinball Machines (1962). Courtesy Christie’s.

This report on the Thiebaud market by Angelica Villa with data from our friends at Pi-eX is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.) 

According to a new report from London-based art market data analysis firm, Pi-eX that collates artists’ market data across Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips from 2007-2019, California painter, Wayne Thiebaud—renowned for his glossy depictions of food and Americana—has reached a new market value and a new threshold.

When  American collector Barney Ebsworth’s art went up for sale at Christie’s in 2018, there was an opportunity for Thiebaud’s early period Bakery Counter (believed to be valued at around $20 million to $25 million today) to bring a market defining moment with a single high caliber work. Unfortunately for the Thiebaud market, Ebsworth’s heirs chose not to sell the work. That hasn’t left the artist’s market bereft of activity as sales have accumulated charting a rise in value. All that was needed for a breakout moment was a major work to come up for sale.

Now that time has come. Christie’s recent announcement of a large-scale 1962 Thiebaud depicting five pinball machines carrying an estimate of $18 million to $25 million will come to auction during the highly anticipated ONE sale in July 10th.

The work has changed hands several times, having been in a private collection since its sale through Theibaud’s dealer Allan Stone, and later coming to auction at Christie’s New York in 1981 where it sold to real-estate mogul Donald Bren for just $143,000. Bren traded the work shortly after the sale to the current owner, Ken Siebel, with whom the work resided for the past four decades. Coinciding with Thiebaud recent market ascent at auction, the work’s value has increased by 12487.4% since its 1981 purchase.

Allan Stone influenced the Thiebaud private market for decades. In 2007 and 2011, during the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales of Stone’s estate, major Thiebaud works came up for sale.

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