Late last year the $15 million or £9.5 million estimate for Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at auction was shattered after a rather intense bidding war between two unknown rivals. ‘Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1’, a 1932 painting of a simple white flower, was finally bought after the flurry by an unnamed buyer with a telephone bid at Sotheby’s auction house.
The floral painting by the late US artist has sold for $44.4 million or £28.8 million at auction; this set a record for an artwork by a female artist. The auction of the work smashed the previous record of $11.9 million or £7.5 million for an untitled work by Joan Mitchell, which was set in set in May. The work was put up for sale by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, after the need arose to raise proceeds for its acquisitions fund.
The highest auction price for an O’Keeffe work had previously been $6.2 million or £3.9 million for a sale at Christie’s in 2001. The art auction record is for a work by Paul Gauguin that has recently become the world’s most expensive work of art, after a member of the Qatar Royal family privately paid the huge sum of $300 million or £196.7 million for the 1892 artwork titled ‘Nafea Faa Ipoipo’.
Georgia O’Keeffe, who died in 1986 at the age of 98, was widely regarded for her large-format depictions of flowers which she painted as if they had been seen in macro.
Now it has been revealed that 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, as reported Lee Rosenbaum on CultureGrrl.
The museum was founded and primarily funded by Alice Walton, and opened in late 2011 after a flurry of major, high-priced American art purchases by the Walmart heiress. A number of these acquisitions remained a secret until the museum’s public unveiling, a lack of transparency by the new museum that upset many professionals in the art world.
The sale clearly cemented O’Keeffe’s place at the top of the marketplace for female artists.