Will This Georgia O’Keeffe White Lily Break Another Auction Record?

Georgia O'Keeffe, White Calla Lily (1972).
Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s annual American art auction this May will have Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Calla Lily, with an estimate of $8–12 million, as its star lot.

The announcement of the offer of White Calla Lily comes on the heels of O’Keeffe’s biggest sale, just last year. Her Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 went for a whopping $44.4 million (three times its $15-million estimate) at Sotheby’s, making it the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold at auction (see O’Keeffe Painting Sells for $44 Million at Sotheby’s, Sets Record for Work by Female Artist and Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum Bought Georgia O’Keeffe Painting for Record $44 Million). Will this Lily painting break another auction record? Judging by the lack of blue tones and its more slim shape, it seems unlikely. But then again, the artist’s last painting’s final price tag was also a surprise.

If this painting sells at its high estimate ($12 million) it will surpass the second-highest price for a female artist, $11.9 million, for an untitled Joan Mitchell canvas from 1960. That record was set at Christie’s in May 2014 (see Who Are the Most Expensive Women Artists at Auction?).

White Calla Lily, which was executed in 1927 and remained with the artist until her death in 1986, has been in a private collection for more than two decades. It was acquired by the present owner in 1994 and has not been on public display since its purchase, says Sotheby’s.

O’Keeffe’s last major museum retrospective was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the fall of 1970 (see An Exclusive Walk With Adam Weinberg Through the New Whitney Museum Building). Her work is also currently on view at the Whitney’s inaugural exhibition, “America Is Hard to See,” at its new meatpacking district home.

Sotheby’s spring auction of American art takes place May 20, 2015.

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