Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was an American modernist painter, well-known for paintings of flowers, barren landscapes and surrealistic still-lifes. Encouraged by her mother to study art, she took lessons from a local artist, Sara Mann, in her childhood. Later, she studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then attended the Arts Student League in New York in 1907.
She began her artistic career with a series of charcoal drawings of ferns, clouds and waves, expressed in abstract combinations of shapes and lines. The photographer Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924, had recognized her talent and potential early on, and he actively promoted her works, leading O’Keeffe to dedicate her time solely to her craft.
O’Keeffe drew inspiration for her paintings from the natural world around her and from her life experiences. She began making large-scale paintings of flowers, landscapes and bones at a close range, and switched from watercolors to oil paint. In her paintings of New York skyscrapers and other architectural forms, she expertly infused the style of Precisionism.
Subsequent to her visit to New Mexico in 1929, she produced several paintings capturing the beauty of the desert, its vast skies and animal skulls.
Some of her iconic paintings are “Petunia No. 2” (1924), “Radiator Building - Night, New York” (1927), ‘”Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue” (1931), “Black Cross”, “New Mexico” to name a few. “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which sold in 2014 for $44.4 million, is the most expensive painting sold by a woman artist.
Here is a performance analysis of Georgia O’Keeffe’s artworks in the auction market:
1. Sales Trend in the Past 20 Years
The number of lots sold year on year has remained very low in single digits only, she stood at No. 3 with a total sale of $263.6 million (as of now).
O’Keeffe’s artworks had a record year in 2014, with total sales of $65.5 million for 11 lots. In that year, her floral painting titled “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1”, which was estimated $15 million, sold for $44.4 million at auction - setting the record for an artwork sold by a female artist. The piece is an iconic representation of a large-scale flower and breaks the previous record of $11.9 million for an untitled work by Joan Mitchell, set in May of the same year, 2014.
Since the 2014 spike, her sales value declined despite a peak of 20 lots sold in 2015 that brought in only $19.3 million. In 2017, the artist brought in $8 million on the sale of five artworks.
2. Volume of Artworks on Offer vs. Bought-in Rate
A trend of artworks offered at auction and the bought-in rate can be observed in the graph below. In 2012, highest bought-in was registered at 44.4 percent and in 2013 and 2014, this measure fell to zero percent, indicating that all lots offered were sold.
It is evident in section-1, 2017 marked a lackluster year for the artist, but it is interesting to note that there was no bought-in for the artist.
3. Average and Median Sale Price Trend in the Past 20 Years
In 2014, O’Keeffe’s sale price averaged at an all-time high of $6 million, which can be attributed to the record-setting sale of her floral painting for $44 million at Sotheby’s New York.
In 2015, although lots sold reached a peak of 20 for the artist (refer section-1), her sales represented a total of $8 million because 80 percent (or 16 lots) of her works that were auctioned did not exceed $1 million.
4. Highest-Priced Artworks
O’Keeffe’s top artworks in terms of price were sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s New York.
The highest-priced work was “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which sold for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s American Art on November 20, 2014. The work, an oil on canvas, measured 48 by 40 inches.
The second-highest artwork was “Lake George Reflection,” an oil on canvas, signed with the initials “OK” in artist's star device (on the original backing), which sold for $12.9 million in May 19, 2016, at Christie’s.
On May 14, “Lake George with white birch,” a 1921 oil-on-canvas work, came in third at $11.3 million.
5. Price Band in Which Her Works Have Sold in the Past 20 Years
In the past two decades, more than half, or 51.2 percent of O’Keeffe’s works have sold in the range of $100,000 to $1 million; followed by 31.5 percent that were sold in the $1 million to $10 million range. In the same period, two artworks, or 1.6 percent have sold for over $10 million.
6. Where Have Her Works Sold the Most in the Past 20 Years
It is evident from the graph below that all sales for the artist both in value and volume are coming through the top two auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
7. Top Selling Media in the Past 20 Years
In the past 20-year period, O’Keeffe’s oil paintings were the top sellers, with sales reaching $171.6 million for 84 lots.
8. Total Sales to date in 2018 (since January 1- through July 31)
So far this year, her sales have reached nearly $27 million (through July 31), bolstered by the sale of “Lake George with white birch” for $11.3 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on May 14.
O’Keeffe’s sales this year have already surpassed her total sales of last year, which were $8 million. This year is also on its way to being her second highest-grossing year since 2014’s total of $65.5 million. With the upcoming auction season in the fourth quarter, this artist is expected to break through her previous records.
Founder Louise Blouin