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Analysis out of the box

The market rise of Oscar Murillo

Analysis out of the box | The popularity of Oscar Murillo, 27, a 2012 graduate of the London Royal College of Art, has rocketed and was revealed to the public during an auction at Sotheby’s New York in May 2013 where, for the first time, one of his pieces was put up for sale by public auction ($37,500). One month later, the value of his paintings for sale went into six figures. We assess his rise to fame.

Installation view of Oscar Murillo If I was to draw a line, this journey started approximately 400km north of the equator at South London Gallery, London 2013 © Mark Blower
Installation view of Oscar Murillo If I was to draw a line, this journey started approximately 400km north of the equator at South London Gallery, London 2013
© Mark Blower

His life, his works

A native of Colombia, Oscar Murillo spent the first ten years of his life in La Paila where his parents harvested sugar cane before emigrating to London. His family worked for a cleaning company and he paid for his studies himself by cleaning offices. The emigration, movement, his family unit and his cultural community (Family) form a key part of his artistic work as well as dust, dirt, free-form pieces and any other medium possible that he uses on stage to create - in the spirit of the Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement - on-the-spot works with incredible energy. His pieces and installations have also assimilated and recycled the teachings of icons such as Beuys, Dieter Roth and Basquiat with a social and sociological side specific to the emerging global culture and reminiscent of the work of Thomas Hirschhorn.

The launch pad : points of reference

- December 2011 : the François Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles presented 15 paintings at the NADA Miami Art Fair - the pieces between $2,500 and $8,500 were all sold.
- 2011, artistic initiatives at the Carlos / Ishikawa gallery in London : « animals die from eating too much - yoga » and « animals die from eating too much - bingo ! «  - A buzz.
- 14 September 2012 : Hans Ulrich Obrist, an influential curator, invited him to the Serpentine Gallery - an artistic initiative entitled, « The Cleaners » , Party with Comme des garçons - An event.
- December 2012 : several works were bought and presented by prestigious collectors Mera and Don Rubell during the Art Basel Miami Beach Art Fair - A launch.
- He was the first artist-resident at the Rubell Foundation in Miami; he produced 50 pieces in 5 weeks which were all purchased by a couple of collectors - A label for the artist.
- June 2013 : Berlin gallery Isabella Bortolozzi presented him at Art Unlimited in Basel
- September 2013 : the influential David Zwirner gallery announced that it would represent Oscar Murillo
- September 2013 : his first major exhibition at South London Gallery supported by Vicky Hughes and John Smith (collectors), Raimund Berthold at Berthold and Paul Ettlinger.

Public sales, a mirror of influence in record time

At almost the exact same time as the stratospheric rise of Oscar Murillo, his first paintings appeared successively in the three principal auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, with a painting in each of the sales sessions in June and September. In this short period of time, the peak came at Phillips (majority owned by luxury group Russe Mercury) which sold a 2011 piece for $401,000 with the premium (Est. $30/40,000). In the months of May, June and September 2013, Oscar Murillo’s newfound popularity became evident with seven lots totaling more than $1,600,000; then the month of October saw seven lots go for a total of more than $1,580,000. The question is, will things continue in this vein and until when? By contrast, the young artist’s first supporters, the mainly prospective Carlos/Ishikawa (London) and Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin) galleries, played no part in this inflation.

A manipulated market

The market of young international artists is being increasingly conditioned and manipulated in order to gain recognition from the global art market which counts short-term speculative potential among its main criteria. The ascent of Oscar Murillo’s short career mirrors this; it is down to a combination of several key factors :
- In a short space of time « brand » and « communications » levers ensured that his work became known among a small circle of influential people in the global art market : the active support of the Rubell collectors, the publicity generated in the North and South American markets through the Art Basel Miami fair and the Serpentine event in London.
- Many Latin American countries have experienced growth with Colombia no different. As transformations take place, the country has seen a new leading economic class emerge, has become popular with foreigners and has begun to develop educational, university-based and cultural structures in the cultural desert left behind by the drug economy.
- The buyers? An investment fund based in Miami, a young Colombian collector and speculative buyers from other continents according to the Art Market Monitor.
- In speculative terms, the recent work of Oscar Murillo is reminiscent of Basquiat’s energy : money is energy and energy is the life-source of money.

Nina Rodrigues-Ely
Publié le 12/11/2013
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Installation view of Oscar Murillo If I was to draw a line, this journey started approximately 400km north of the equator at South London Gallery, London 2013 © Mark Blower

Installation view of Oscar Murillo If I was to draw a line, this journey started approximately 400km north of the equator at South London Gallery, London 2013
© Mark Blower

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