Artnet News’s Top 10 Most Expensive Women Artists at Auction 2016

Agnes Martin and Frida Kahlo rise to the top.

Joan Mitchell's Two Sunflowers at Sotheby's New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Last summer, artnet News conducted a survey of the most expensive female artists at auction–and though we’re a few months shy of hitting a year, with the auctions in New York and London having come and gone, a lot has already changed.

New to this year’s list are Agnes Martin and Frida Kahlo, who advanced to the top of the auctions at Christie’s earlier this month. Their rise, however, topples fan-favorite Yayoi Kusama, who ranked in ninth place last year. Her $7,109,000 painting, White No. 28 (1960), takes eleventh place with canvases by Barbara Hepworth and Kay Sage not far behind.

To determine the new shuffle, artnet News mined the Price Database for stats over the past 10 years. See the lineup below.


Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932). Courtesy of Christie’s.

1. Georgia O’Keeffe, $44.4 million
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932) was picked up by Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges Museum for a record-breaking $44.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2014, and it still stands as the most expensive painting by a female artist. The work first bloomed in its new home at a special exhibition the following spring.


Louise Bourgeois, Spider (1996). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

2. Louise Bourgeois, $28.2 million
Hot on O’Keeffe’s heels is Louise Bourgeois’s formidable, nine-foot-tall Spider (1996). The bronze arachnid, which secured fifth place in our roundup last year, jumped three slots at a Christie’s Post-War sale in the fall of 2015. At $28.2 million, Bourgeois’s Spider stands as O’Keeffe’s closest challenger yet.

Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1960). Courtesy of Christie’s.

3. Joan Mitchell, $11.9 million
Beloved Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell maintains her seat in the top three with the 2014 sale of Untitled (1960). The painting sold at Christie’s New York for just under $12 million, exceeding the high estimate of $9 million. Until O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 surpassed it later that year, the canvas set a new record for all female artists at auction. When Mitchell’s Noon (1969) sold for $9.8 million on an estimate of $5 to $7 million this month at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art evening sale, it showed that confidence in Mitchell’s work is still high.


Berthe Morisot, Après le déjeuner (1881). Courtesy of Christie’s London.

4. Berthe Morisot, $10.9 million
Impressionist master Berthe Morisot has seen several works fetch high sums at auction, the greatest of which belongs to the nearly $11 million sale of her Après le déjeuner (1881) in 2013. Within her movement, however, the work still trails behind fellow contemporary Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette (1876), which took home $141.5 million at Sotheby’s in 1990.


Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, Les Fleurs (1912). Courtesy of Christie’s London.

5. Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, $10.8 million
As a prominent artist of Russia’s avant-garde movement, which made waves at the turn of the 20th century, Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova enjoys continued art market success with the 2008 sale of Les fleurs (1912), which sold at Christie’s London for a little under $11 million. And with her Espagnole and Picking Apples taking home $10.2 million and $9.8 million respectively, Goncharova (who features prominently in Madonna’s art collection) has proven to be a consistent hit.


Agnes Martin, Orange (1965). Courtesy of Christie’s.

6. Agnes Martin, $10.7 million
Earlier this month, Agnes Martin broke her record with the $10.7 million sale of Orange Grove (1965). The Christie’s sale, which catapulted Martin into the middle half of our roundup, is an impressive achievement for the artist—especially considering her previous record, for her canvas The Beach (1964), which sold at Sotheby’s in 2013, comes in at $6.5 million.


Cady Noland, Bluewald (1989). Courtesy of Christie’s.

7. Cady Noland, $9.7 million
As the only living female artist to make the cut, Cady Noland stands firm in our list with the 2015 sale of Bluewald (1989). The work, which exceeded the high estimate of $8 million at Christie’s New York last May, surpassed the artist’s prior record with Oozewald (1989), which sold for $6.5 million in 2011.


Tamara de Lempicka, Le rêve (Rafaëla sur fond vert) (1927). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

8. Tamara de Lempicka, $8.4 million
Pegged as the “first woman artist to be a glamour star,” Tamara de Lempicka is a recurring hit at auctions. Her most successful moment came when Le rêve (Rafaëla sur fond vert) (1927) sold for $8.4 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2011. The artist also happens to have a loyal collector in Madonna, who told Vanity Fair in a 1990 interview: “I have a Lempicka museum.”


Camille Claudel, La valse, permière version (1892, printing/casting 1893). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

9. Camille Claudel, $8 million
Camille Claudel joins the list with the $8 million sale of La valse, permière version (1893) at Sotheby’s London in 2013.


Frida Kahlo, Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma) (1939). Courtesy of Christie’s.

10. Frida Kahlo, $8 million
Frida Kahlo’s Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma) (1939) sold for a record-breaking $8 million at Christie’s this spring, capping off a rather lackluster auction week. Kahlo’s recent market success comes as little surprise since the artist has been the center of considerable art-world attention in recent years. Notably, Kahlo’s oeuvre is small, which makes opportunities for collecting her work all the more rare.

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