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25 Most Collectable Midcareer Artists: Nari Ward

Through a repurposing of urban detritus, this New York–based artist explores the semiotics of politics, economics, labor, and migration in his sculptural installations. “Despite the fact that his work draws domestic themes specific to U.S. history,” says Jessica Kreps, gallery director at Lehmann Maupin, “Nari’s ability to connect and understand his surroundings in a fluid way makes those themes universal.”

Ward’s collectors come from the United States, the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe—specifically Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, where the 2012–13 Rome Prize winner regularly exhibits at galleries and museums. In addition to winning curatorial acclaim, having presented at Documenta 11, Prospect.1, and the Whitney Biennial, Ward has seen his market grow steadily over his career.

Most recently, Ultra Leaves, 2015, an old gas station sign painted in gold, sold at the Armory Show in March for $50,000 to $60,000. At Art Basel, Breathing Panel #4 (2015) went around $75,000. The 62-by-50-by-1.75-inch panel is one in a series of variously sized works.

With a solo show of Ward’s work opening at Lehmann Maupin on September 9, and a midcareer retrospective at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) coming on November 19, Kreps suggests that now is the time for collectors to revisit the artist. “The show at pamm is going to be a milestone in his career. The museum itself, having been beautifully rebuilt, will broaden his audience beyond those in the know.” she states. “People are able to peel back the layers of his metaphors and symbols, yet have an instinctive reaction to his work.”