Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum Bought Georgia O’Keeffe Painting for Record $44 Million
The Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, is responsible for last year’s record-breaking Georgia O’Keeffe sale, as well as a major Jasper Johns purchase, reports Lee Rosenbaum on CultureGrrl. Clearly, the Qataris aren’t the only people attempting to keep news of their big-ticket art purchases on the down low.
O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for $44 million at the Sotheby’s Evening Contemporary sale in November. This set the record both for the artist and for a work by a female artist, topping Joan Mitchell‘s Untitled, which sold for $11.9 million at Christie’s New York this past May. The work nearly tripled its $15 million high estimate. Crystal Bridges also reportedly picked up Johns’s Flag (1983) at the same auction for $36 million.
Founded and primarily funded by Alice Walton, the Crystal Bridges museum opened in late 2011 after a flurry of major, high-priced American art purchases by the Walmart heiress. Many of these acquisitions remained a secret until the museum’s public unveiling, a lack of transparency that upset many in the art world.
Although the museum’s collecting has slowed of late, the purported O’Keeffe and Johns sales demonstrate a renewed commitment to acquisitions, and a return to secretive practices. Rosenbaum is critical of the museum’s decision not to announce the purchase of either painting, arguing that it “demonstrates a misunderstanding of the responsibility of museums to make information about the works in their collections (not to mention the objects themselves) available to the public.”
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