Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell
1 July 2020
The American painter sold well during her lifetime, but it's only in recent years that her prices have begun to catch up to those of her peers.
Joan Mitchell, Garden Party (1961–1962) (detail). Oil on canvas. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Three works by Abstract Impressionist Joan Mitchell sold for a combined US $22.7 million at a Sotheby's New York auction this week.
Straw (1976) sold for $8.8 million (estimate $5-7 million), Garden Party (1961-62) for $7.9 million (estimate $4-6 million), and Liens Colorés (1956) for 6 million (estimate $5-7 million) at the Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale.
Garden Party sold to an online bidder, briefly becoming the highest priced work Sotheby's has ever sold online before being overtaken by Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled (Head) (1982) later in the auction.
Despite long-time admiration from artists and collectors, and having shown alongside the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning since the historic Ninth Street Show in 1951, it wasn't until 2004 that a painting by Mitchell first sold at auction for over $1 million. Fast forward to 2018, however, and Blueberry (1969) sold for $16.6 million. At this year's Art Basel Online, even a work on paper, Pastel (1991), went for seven figures.
While the most expensive work Sotheby's sold on Monday night was Francis Bacon's Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981), which garnered $84.6 million (estimate $80 million), sales results were especially strong among female artists. In total, 25 works by 16 women were sold for a total of $86 Million, a result largely accomplished through the sale of works collected by cable TV magnate Ginny Williams.
Another significant sale came from one of Mitchell's peers, Helen Frankenthaler, whose 4-metre-wide Royal Fireworks (1975) went for $7.9 million (estimate $2/3 million), a record at auction for the artist.
Other Mitchell works to appear at auction in the coming weeks include Noël (1961-1962) (estimate $9.5-12.5 million) at Phillips on July 2 and the diptych La Grande Vallée VII (1983) (estimate $10-15 million) at Christie's on July 10. Phillips is also auctioning a Frankenthaler, Head of the Meadow (1967) (estimate $600,000-800,000). —[O]