The Painting: Jimson Weed / White Flower No. 1
The Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe 1887 - 1986
Oil on canvas, 48 by 40 inches / 121.9 by 101.6 cm
It was painted in 1932.
American Art - November 20th 2014 New York - Sothebys
Property from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund
Estimate $10,000,000. to 15,000,000 USD - In auction it went for $44,405,000, £28.8m - hammer price with buyer's premium.
The Buyer: Alice B. Walton the Walmart heiress.
For roughtly the last 15 years, Mrs. Walton has been responsible for setting records in the American Art field, snapping up at auction some of the greatest works in that category that come on the market on behalf of the four-year-old mega-museum in Walmart’s hometown (the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art). She has bought Andy Warhol’s iconic Coca-cola bottle, Winslow Homer’s Blackwell Island, John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife. Ironically, she has inflated the sector, making her subsequent purchases more expensive. - by Alexandra Peers, March 15, 2015
Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 is a strikingly bold and elegant representation of the artist’s mature intent and aesthetic. Painted in 1932, the work exhibits one of O’Keeffe’s most enduring motifs: her innovative renderings of magnified flowers. O’Keeffe first explored this theme early in her career, drawn to the flower as subject for what she felt was the challenge it posed to observation. It was easy, she believed, to overlook the beauty found in the details of these small forms. Beginning in the 1920s, she decided to paint them on a large scale so that “even busy New Yorkers” would have to stop and appreciate her unique, sensory experience of nature. “Where I come from the earth means everything,” O’Keeffe said of the profound connection she felt. “Life depends on it. You pick it up and feel it in your hands” - Debra Bricker Balken, Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2009, pp. 24-5.
See more on Georgia O'Keeffe click here (to come)
The star of Sotheby's American Art sale on November 20 2014 is Georgia O'Keeffe's captivating "Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1." In this brief video, hear the artist's own words and discover the incomparable beauty and power of this painting. Video
Georgia O’Keeffe, photo by Alfred Stieglitz >
Analysis by Will Gompertz, Arts Editor for the BBC
". . . what caught my eye was the institution selling the painting, which was The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Doesn't that strike you as odd? A museum selling an artwork by the artist it was founded to represent?
I can't imagine it happening in this country, where our museum collections are like Venus flytraps: once an artwork goes into the collection, it ain't ever coming out (unless there are truly exceptional circumstances).
The Americans take a more strategic approach when it comes to buying and selling work in and out of institutional collections. They generally have a policy of "trading up", whereby lesser works are sold to raise the necessary money to buy better examples from an artist's oeuvre.
That makes sense. But does it make sense for The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum to sell a painting the market - even at the original estimate of $10-$15m - considered to be of the highest quality?
The current trustees obviously think so, but I wonder if those running the museum in the future will agree?"