Christie’s Is Selling a $50 Million Collection Featuring Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo Flower Paintings and a Moody Magritte

The collection will be sold across a series of sales through March.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Pink Spotted Lily II (1936). It is expected to sell for $1.2 million–1.8 million at the
Georgia O’Keeffe, Pink Spotted Lily II (1936). Courtesy of Christie’s New York.

Works owned by the late Chicago collectors and philanthropists James and Marilynn Alsdorf will appear at Christie’s New York in several sales over the next few months. The collection, valued at an estimated $50 million, includes Modern and Impressionist works, ancient Asian art, and Old Master drawings.

“The Alsdorf collection is an example of cross-category collecting at its finest,” said Christie’s chairman of the Americas Marc Porter in a statement. “It is crowned by masterpieces in the collecting realms of antiquities, works on paper, European and Latin American art, and Indian and Southeast Asian art.”

The couple married in 1952 and traveled around the world buying art. “We looked for objects,” Marilynn Alsdorf once said, “to delight our eyes and our souls.”

James Alsdorf was an investor and business executive who served on US advisory committees under presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. The couple were patrons of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. They are the namesake of the Art Institute’s Alsdorf Galleries for Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art, which opened in 2009. James Alsdorf died in 1990 at the age of 76. Marilynn Alsdorf was 94 when she died this past August.

James and Marilynn Alsdorf, pictured in Miami in 1950. Photo courtesy of Christie's, via the consignor.

James and Marilynn Alsdorf in Miami in 1950. Photo courtesy of Christie’s, via the consignor.

The first works from the collection will hit the auction block next month during a week of 20th-century sales. Among the highlights are Joan Miró’s ‘La Publicitat’ et le vase de fleurs (1916–17), estimated at $2 million–$3 million; Pablo Picasso’s Portrait de Marie-Thérèse (1937), estimated at $800,000–$1.2 million; and René Magritte’s Le seize Septembre (1957), which could fetch upwards of $9 million.

The American art sale will include the Georgia O’Keeffe painting Pink Spotted Lilies (1936), which has a high estimate of $1.8 million, while Jean Dubuffet’s Palinodie (1961) will feature in the post-war and contemporary sale for an undisclosed price.

René Magritte, Le seize septembre (1957), estimated to see at $7 million–$9 million. Courtesy of Christie’s in New York.

René Magritte, Le seize septembre (1957), estimated to see at $7 million–$9 million. Courtesy of Christie’s in New York.

Another major lot, in the Latin American art auction, is Frida Kahlo’s The Flower Basket (1941), a rare oil-on-copper still life by the artist—one of only two works of its kind that she ever made. It’s one of a pair of Kahlo works in the sale, the other being Portrait of a Lady in White (circa 1929), which carries a pre-sale estimate of $3 million–5 million.

The Flower Basket has an interesting history: It was commissioned by the president of Mexico for the dining room at the Palacio Nacional. Originally, the assignment was for five portraits of important women from Mexican history, but the government changed their mind and requested still lifes, before cancelling the project all together. Kahlo had already completed two of the paintings, and sold The Flower Basket to actress Paulette Goddard, whose affair with Diego Rivera had likely been a factor in Kahlo’s 1939 divorce.

Frida Kahlo, The Flower Basket (1941). It is expected to sell for $3 million–5 million at the "Latin American Art" sale on November 20 at Christie’s New York. Photo ©2019 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Frida Kahlo, The Flower Basket (1941). It is expected to sell for $3 million–5 million at the “Latin American Art” sale on November 20 at Christie’s New York. Photo ©2019 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Because the two artists remarried the next year, scholars unaware of the presidential commission have speculated that The Flower Basket was made “not only as an act of Kahlo’s forgiveness of Goddard for the latter’s love affair with Kahlo’s then ex-husband Diego Rivera, but of Kahlo’s own supposed romantic affection for, and sexual conquest of Goddard (the ‘ex-rival’),” according to the Christie’s auction catalogue.

Following the November sales, works from the Alsdorf collection by François Boucher, Giovanni Battista, and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo will appear in the house’s Old Master drawings sale in January. Sales of the the collection will conclude in March, with Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian work on offer during Asia Week.


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