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O’Keeffe Museum sells two paintings for $19.5M

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Two paintings “de-accessioned” from the collection of Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum have sold for more than $19.5 million.

Last month, Sotheby’s announced it would sell three paintings in two separate auctions. The proceeds will go to the museum’s acquisition fund for purchasing new items for the museum’s collection.

“A Street,” from 1926, and 1928’s “Calla Lilies on Red” sold in Sotheby’s contemporary art auction Wednesday night in New York.

“A Street,” a painting from O’Keeffe’s small series of New York cityscapes, sold for $13,282,500. It went into the auction with an estimated value of between $12 million and $18 million.

“Calla Lilies on Red,” one of several paintings the legendary artist made depicting the flower, sold below its $8 million-$12 million estimated value, at $6,282,700.

The buyers’ identities were not divulged.

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Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘A Street,’ 1926. Oil on canvas. (Courtesy of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)

The third painting, “Cottonwood Tree in Spring,” from 1943, will be auctioned today and has an estimated value of $1.5 million-$2.5 million.

Cody Hartley, the senior director of Collections and Interpretations at the O’Keeffe Museum, said Thursday he’s pleased with Wednesday’s results.

“It was all in all a very solid performance and continues to demonstrate O’Keeffe’s market and appeal,” he said.

He cited a growing interest in O’Keeffe artwork, adding that three years ago, works like these would have likely sold for less.

In 2014, the museum sold O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” – the Jimson flower is an iconic O’Keeffe image – at auction for $44.4 million, the record for a painting by a female artist. The buyer turned out to be the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, founded and funded by Walmart heiress Alice B. Walton.

Hartley said that since then, there has been “increased visibility” for O’Keeffe on the international scene, including through several high-profile exhibitions.

“It’s nice to see confirmation that the O’Keeffe market has continued to grow,” he said.

Of the approximately $19.5 million accrued from this week’s sales so far, Hartley estimated about $18.4 million would go back to the museum. The money will go into the acquisition fund, which is invested to generate money for purchases.

“This helps boost that fund and makes sure we have the resources to be competitive ourselves for acquisitions,” Hartley said.

As for how paintings were chosen to auction off, Hartley said one consideration was that the Santa Fe museum has comparable paintings that can be used to tell the story of O’Keeffe as an artist.

Also, the museum staff believed the three paintings offered at Sotheby’s would have particular market appeal and, since they cover a range of her work, they would “cohere together to tell a nice story,” Hartley said.

For decades, O’Keeffe lived and painted in Abiquiu in northern New Mexico, where the landscape that is now often called “O’Keeffe Country” became a crucial inspiration for her work. She died in Santa Fe in 1986.

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