Sotheby’s to Offer Four Paintings by Joan Mitchell in ‘Momentous’ May Auction

Sotheby’s will offer four major paintings by Joan Mitchell as part of its contemporary evening sale on May 13, spanning the artist’s career, with estimates ranging between $1 million and $20 million.

All four paintings, Untitled (1954), the large-scale canvas Noon (1969), Untitled (1973) and the diptych Ground (1989-1990) have been consigned from the same private collection.

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Notably, Noon was painted after Mitchell’s permanent move to Vétheuil, France, where she lived at an estate once owned by Claude Monet.

David Galperin, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, called the offering of the four paintings “a momentous occasion” for how they chart the development and evolution of the artist’s work over forty years. “It’s the first time, truly in an auction, where we can trace every decade of the artists practice,” he told ARTnews. “Seeing them together is remarkable, because it allows you to really understand the entire scope and trajectory of ventures development as an artist and as an abstract painter.”

The upcoming May sales of the four paintings at Sotheby’s follow a celebrated retrospective of Mitchell’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Baltimore Museum of Art, as well as the acclaimed “Monet-Mitchell” exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

Works by Mitchell featured in two noteworthy sales last November: an untitled painting from 1959 which sold at Christie’s on November 10 for a record-breaking $29.2 million with fees; five days later, Sotheby’s sold Mitchell’s Sunflowers (1990-91) for $27.9 million.

As a result, Sotheby’s has put the price estimates for Untitled (1954) at $8 million to $12 million; Noon (1969) at $15 million to $20 million; Untitled (1973) at $1 million to $1.5 million’ and the diptych Ground (1989-1990) at $12 million to $18 million.

Galperin said these prices reflect how long Mitchell was “really undervalued” relative to the artist’s male peers and contemporary artists in the Abstract Expressionist movement.

“I think now what we’re seeing over the past several years, is a real ascent in her market that corresponds to a re-evaluation of her work and the rightful positioning of her alongside the greatest of the abstract expressionist painters,” Galperin told ARTnews. “It’s long overdue, and frankly, there’s still opportunity in the market, because from my point of view, she’s still hasn’t caught up price wise, to the place where she ought to be.”

The four paintings are currently on public view at Sotheby’s galleries in Los Angeles prior to their exhibition in New York on May 3.

Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925. An MFA graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, Mitchell moved to France through a travel fellowship. Close studies of Cubism and Impressionism would inspire an abstract shift in her work. Two years later, Mitchell moved to New York, where she became a central part of a group of post-war Abstract Expressionists in Manhattan known as the New York School.

In 1951, Mitchell’s work appeared in the historic “Ninth Street Show,” a group show of Abstract Expressionism featuring Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner. Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, was among the influential attendees.

Mitchell split her time between Paris and New York until the purchase of an estate once owned by Monet in Vétheuil, France in 1967. The purchase was funded by an inheritance from the artist’s mother after her passing, and the transatlantic move would mark a turning point in Mitchell’s career. The design of the La Tour estate, with its high ceilings and large space, and its location along the Seine, allowed the artist to produce larger works with colors reflective of the natural surroundings, such as Noon and Ground.


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