NEW YORK – Public institutions and private collectors zealously vied for works from the estates of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz in Thursday’s auction titled “Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Juan Hamilton: Passage” at Sotheby’s New York, driving the sale to achieve $17.2 million total – well in excess of the auction’s $13.3 million high estimate, and with a strong 87.4% of all lots finding buyers. Featuring never-before-seen artworks and personal effects emerging from the collection of artist Juan Hamilton, friend and confidante of O’Keeffe, the selection of works on offer traced the artistic evolutions and shared histories of the three American artists.
“We are very pleased with the results of today’s auction, which drew many new clients to participate in our salesroom. These results demonstrate that collectors and fans remain fascinated by Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and work, and we are proud to continue pushing her legacy forward, particularly alongside the many public institutions who acquired works for their collection,” said Kayla Carlsen, Sotheby’s head of American Art.
Works by Georgia O’Keeffe:
Thursday’s auction was led by O’Keeffe’s widely exhibited and reproduced Nature Forms – Gaspé, which achieved $6.9 million – surpassing its $6 million high estimate. Painted in 1932, the artist was inspired by the natural forms and organic shapes she encountered while traveling along the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada with Georgia Engelhard, Stieglitz’s niece, in the summer of 1932.
A group of exceptional sculptures by O’Keeffe was led by Abstraction, which fetched $668,000 – more than double its $300,000 high estimate. First modeled in 1946, the work represents O’Keeffe’s second attempt at sculpture and is a cast of one example of only three sculptural motifs that she produced throughout her seven-decade career. The spiral form appears throughout her body of work and is reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s bone paintings in its organic form and white color.
Offering a rare glimpse into O’Keeffe’s artistic and creative process, the selection of charcoal and pencil drawings on offer were led by Untitled (Trees) from 1976, which brought $106,250. While most well-known for her paintings of flowers and animal skulls, O’Keeffe first gained critical recognition through her drawings and works on paper. These works continued to play an essential role throughout her career, and the medium afforded an opportunity for experimentation and independence from traditional art training.
The collection featured a selection of O’Keeffe’s rare stoneware, examples of which have never before been offered at auction. The group of seven works, led by Untitled (Clay Pot) that brought $60,000, together achieved a total of $250,000 – more than three times their overall high estimate. Records of the artist’s pottery begin in 1974 when O’Keeffe was exposed to new materials and became inspired and reawakened by working alongside Hamilton.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Personal Effects
Standout prices for a selection of personal effects emblematic of O’Keefe’s life and work included: a 18-jar set of pigments, each labeled in O’Keeffe’s hand, which fetched $75,000; a spectacularly fresh copy of the first, limited edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses inscribed and signed by her Modernist colleague Marsden Hartley, which achieved $62,500; a custom black and white pleated dress possibly hand sewn-by O’Keeffe, which achieved $25,000; and the marriage certificate for Stieglitz and O’Keeffe’s 1924 wedding, signed by Stieglitz Circle artist John Marin as one of the witnesses, which achieved $15,000 – surpassing its $10,000 high estimate.
Yale University Acquisition
In advance of Sotheby’s auction, Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired a group of important manuscripts and photographs from the collection, in a private sale with Sotheby’s through the offices of the William Reese Co. These materials will join the library’s famed Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O’Keeffe Archive, which was originated by O’Keeffe when she visited Yale in 1949. The archive features photographs, paintings and drawings, letters and ephemera documenting the lives and careers of Stieglitz and O’Keeffe, and has served as the source of numerous monographs and articles on the artists.
The Beinecke Library’s acquisition includes O’Keeffe’s personal recipe card file, featuring approximately 300 recipes in O’Keeffe’s hand and in other hands assembled from the 1950s – 1970s; an address book, begun about 1926, which O’Keeffe and Stieglitz shared; and an archive of published and unpublished manuscript writings by O’Keeffe spanning decades, subjects and locations, and ranging in topics from “My Eyes and Paintings” to “Juan – About Pots” and “Abstract Paintings.”
Alfred Stieglitz Photographs
Demonstrating Alfred Stieglitz’s fascination with O’Keeffe’s work, body, and soul, a group of Stieglitz photographs was led by Georgia O’Keeffe – Hand and Wheel from 1933, an iconic image of her braceleted hand delineating the curve of the spare tire of her Ford V-8, which achieved $400,000. O’Keeffe learned to drive during the summers she spent in the American Southwest and purchased her first automobile in 1929. O’Keeffe’s automobile and the act of driving were both expressions of her growing independence away from Alfred Stieglitz and Lake George.
Additional works by Stieglitz featured: Spiritual America, the only print of this image believed have ever been offered at auction, which achieved $218,750 – more than two times its $90,000 high estimate – and 291, the first double-set of the proto-Dada produced from 1915-16 to ever appear at auction, which achieved $162,500 – more than three times its $50,000 high estimate.