The top offerings for the upcoming marquee auctions are beginning to be unveiled. Sotheby’s has announced it will bring selections from the collection of dealer Ginny Williams to the auction block on June 29 in New York.
Sotheby’s plans to offer the collection of more than 450 lots across a series of sales that will take place over the course of the year. The first selection of which will be scheduled to go on the auction block in a dedicated sale directly following the contemporary evening art auction. Leading the Ginny Williams evening sale will be a host of top works by postwar women artists, including Joan Mitchell’s 1976 canvas Straw, carrying an estimate of $5 million–$7 million; Lee Krasner’s Re-Echo, from 1957, valued at $4 million–$6 million; five works by Louise Bourgeois, the most expensive of which is a bronze sculpture Observer with an estimate of $1.5 million–$2 million. Also among the highest valued pieces are Agnes Martin’s Mountain Flowers I, slated to make $2 million–$3 million, and Helen Frankenthaler’s orange abstract canvas Royal Fireworks, expected to fetch $2 million–$3 million.
The blockbuster roster of works by pioneering female modernists comes at a time when the market is finally giving attention to the group historically undervalued in comparison to their male counterparts. Recent institutional focus is also bringing new context around the formative artists, with Krasner having been the subject of a major solo survey at London’s Barbican Centre in 2019 and Joan Mitchell to be the subject of a retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Already a leading figure in the postwar and contemporary market, Mitchell has an auction record of $16.6 million set in 2018, and the painter’s legacy is now seeing a spike as the market for works by female artists surges.
The works coming up for sale, some from pivotal moments in the artists’ careers, are set to establish new highs. Re-echo, Krasner’s canvas from 1957, is part of the coveted “Earth Green” series, completed at a contentious time in the artist’s life just after the tragic death of her husband, Jackson Pollock, in 1956. If the work meets its low estimate of $4 million, it will be among the top prices for Krasner to date.
Trained as a photojournalist, Williams also built a major collection of photographs. The single-owner sale series will also include two auctions of photographs, featuring works by female photo icons Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, among other mainstays of 20th-century photography. The first sale will up take place between July 9 and 16. Some 100 of those prints will be up for sale and featured in a curated exhibition in July. More than 50 works from the collection will also be offered in Sotheby’s June contemporary art day sale. William’s massive photography collection reached a staggering 16,000 works by the time of the gallerist’s death, and was featured in a 1993 exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, where Williams was a member of the board of trustees.
“Decisive and impassioned, Ginny was a collector that stood apart from others,” says chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art division, Amy Cappellazzo. “She understood artists, and lived and breathed their work into her collection and her life. She was among the last of a rarefied tribe of old school collectors and dealers, a true artist at heart.”
Williams, who died in 2019, spent her time between the East Coast and Colorado, where she was a leading figure in the Denver art community, and amassed one the most significant holdings of works dedicated to modern female artists in the country. Both a friend and avid backer to several of the artist’s she collected, Williams also served as a trustee on the board of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
Amid the current restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, auction houses are still working out details of how the live auctions will be staged. Sotheby’s confirmed the sale dates remain in place pending local government regulations. Sotheby’s plans to make the works available for collectors to view through in-person and virtual meetings.