Vija Celmins, Burning Plane 1965. Sold for $3.4m / £2.1m. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s
NEW YORK— As the 2015 art auction season begins, there is no doubt that this is going to be a great year for artists and art auction houses. From Paul Cézanne’s Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s Boy Peeling a Fruit to be auctioned by Christie’s, there is great excitement amongst art collectors across the globe that this will be an amazing art auction season. But one issue many art professionals and art auction enthusiasts have been grappling with is how female artists will fare this year in an art market dominated by men.
Based on the success recorded by female artists during the 2014 art auction season, there are reasons to be hopeful that they will continue their surge in the art market. At Sotheby’s, female artists not only made record art auction prices, they also broke existing records for works by female artists sold at auction. Georgia O’Keeffe’s iconic flower painting Jimson Weed of 1932, for instance, more than tripled the previous world auction record for any female artist. Estimated at $10 – 15m, the piece fetched $44.4m / £28.4m in New York in November. Kay Sage’s evocative painting Le Passage of 1956 caused a stir in the Impressionist & Modern Art field when it sold for £4.3m / $7.1m. Originally estimated to sell for £70,000 – 90,000, the work surpassed all estimation, establishing a new record for the American artist in London’s February sales. Beyond the record auction price, the art sale marked an emergence of the female artist from the shadow of her husband Yves Tanguy, a celebrated artist. Vija Celmins’s seminal painting Burning Plane from 1965 sold for $3.4m / £2.1m, doubling the high estimate of $1.2 million. A notable female figure on the contemporary art scene in 2014, the scarcity of Vija Celmins’s labour intensive, painstakingly detailed works engendered furious competition among collectors during New York’s Contemporary Curated sale in September.
1. Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed. Sold for £28,377,428 / $44,405,000 (est. $10 – 15 million). Record for the artist at auction and record for any female artist at auction. American Art, November, New York.
2. Kay Sage, Le Passage 1956. Sold for £4.3m / $7.1m (est. £70,000 – 90,000). New record for the artist in London. Impressionist & Modern Art field, February, London.
3. Vija Celmins Burning Plane 1965. Sold for $3.4m / £2.1m, doubling the high estimate of $1.2 million. New York’s Contemporary Curated sale in September.
4. Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Magdalene. Sold for $1.2m / £691,626 (est. €200,000 – 300,000). New record for the Baroque artist at auction. June, Paris.
5. Julia Margaret Cameron, No. 5 of series of twelve lifesized heads (Kate Keown). Estimate: $250,000 – 350,000. Sold for $461,000 / £293,462, nearly doubling the previous record for the artist. A new record was set for the 19th‐century pioneering photographer. December, New York.
6. Dadamaino, Volume. Sold for £122,500 / $196,453, establishing a new benchmark for the artist. October’s Italian Sale.
Aside from Sotheby’s, several female artists excelled at Christie’s. Joan Mitchell’s Untilled sold for $11,925,000 while Yayoi Kusama’s, White No. 28 (1960), sold for $7,109,000.
1. Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1960). Sold for $11,925,000. Christie’s New York on May 13, 2014.
2. Yayoi Kusama, White No. 28 (1960). Sold for $7,109,000. Christie’s New York on November 12, 2014.
3. Barbara Hepworth, Figure for Landscape (1960). Sold for $7,083,050. Christie’s London on June 25, 2014.
4. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills (1977). Sold for $6,773,000. Christie’s New York on November 12, 2014.