O’Keeffe Painting Sells for $44 Million at Sotheby’s, Sets Record for Work by Female Artist

Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 is the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold at auction.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for $44.4 million at Sotheby's, far above the estimated $10 million–15 million estimate. Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s smashed expectations at its American art sale this morning when it sold Georgia O’Keeffe‘s painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 for $44.4 million, roughly tripling the high estimate of $15 million and becoming the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold. The previous auction record for any work by a female artist was $11.9 million, set by Joan Mitchell’s Untitled at Christie’s New York in May 2014. The sale also sailed past O’Keeffe’s previous auction record of $6.2 million.

The high end of the house’s overall sale was $46 million, but thanks to the surge of O’Keeffe’s flower, the overall sale total bloomed to $75.4 million. The artist’s work, three in all that were sold to benefit the acquisitions fund for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, together totaled $50.4 million, or well over half the sale total. This included the second highest price of the sale, On the Old Santa Fe Road (1930–31) that sold for $5.1 million, compared with an estimate of $2 million–3 million.

There were reportedly seven bidders fighting for Jimson Weed before it was sold to Lisa Dennison, chairman, Sotheby’s North and South America, who was bidding for her client. According to the Sotheby’s catalogue description, the painting “is a strikingly bold and elegant representation of the artist’s mature intent and aesthetic. O’Keeffe, who is most famous for her renderings of magnified flowers, once said that she wanted to paint them on a large scale so that “even busy New Yorkers” would have to pause to appreciate them. That was certainly the case this morning at Sotheby’s.

The painting had been with the artist’s sister, Anita O’Keeffe Young, up until about 1966. It has appeared at auction twice before, at Sotheby’s New York in December 1987, when it sold for $990,000 (just above its low estimate of $900,000), and again at Sotheby’s New York in December 1994, when it brought in $1,047,500, a hair over its high estimate of $1 million.

The previous $6.2 million record for O’Keeffe was set in 2001, when Calla lilies with red anemone (1928), sold at Christie’s New York (estimate: $2.5 million–$3.5 million).

A Cubist style abstraction by Stanton McDonald Wright, Still-Life Synchromy (1917) claimed the third-highest spot, selling for $2.1 million, on an estimate of $1.5 million–2.5 million.

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