It is a well-known fact that artworks by female artists only comprise a small share of major permanent museum collections. At auction, women’s artworks sell for a significant discount compared to men’s and only two works by women have ever broken into the top 100 auction sales for paintings, despite women being the subject matter for approximately half of the top 25.
A handful of
women, however, have managed to break records when it comes to the prices paid for
their work at auction. Discover 9 female artists who defied expectations and managed to break the mould.
The ‘Mother of American Modernism' tops the list. Georgia O'Keeffe was deeply in tune with the natural
world and particularly well known for her paintings of enlarged flowers. Her painting 'Jimson Weed/White Flower no. 1', completed in 1932 sold at a Sotheby’s New York
auction in 2014 for a record breaking $44.4 million.
Louise Bourgeouis was both a feminist activist within the artworld, challenging restrictive
censorship of sexually explicit imagery, and a champion of the LGBTQ community.
A bronze version of her giant ‘Maman’ spider sculptures, which represent the
artists’ relationship with her mother, sold at Christie’s for $28.2 million in
Joan Mitchell tops the list in terms of the overall value of her body of work. She was a leading figure in the second generation of American Abstract
Expressionists, and one of only a handful of women active in the
interdisciplinary New York School in the 1950s. Her 1960 painting 'Untitled' sold for almost $12 million in 2014.
Berthe Morisot was a highly-respected
Impressionist painter. Despite the fact that her gender precluded her from
joining official art institutions, she outsold several huge names from the
Impressionist movement, including Monet and Renoir, in her lifetime. Her
highest valued work ‘Après le déjeuner’, painted in 1881, sold for $11 million
Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova
Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova was not only a Russian avant-gardist painter, but also a costume designer, writer, illustrator, set designer and a founding member of the Moscow Jack of Diamonds school of artists. In 2007, she briefly became the most expensive woman artist in the world, after her 1909 painting 'Picking Apples' sold for a record-breaking $ 9.8 million dollars. Her work 'Les Fleurs' also exceeded expectations when it sold for $10.8 million in 2008.
Agnes Martin was another prominent figure in the male-dominated abstraction movement.
Like Georgia O’Keeffe, she settled permanently in New Mexico, where she drew inspiration from her environment. He resultant work is however wildly
different. She is known for her square paintings filled with pale grids and
repeated lines. Her painting 'Orange Grove' (1965) sold for $10.7 million earlier this
Noland portrays what she calls: ‘The American Nightmare’. The postmodern
sculptor uses her medium to comment on contemporary US culture — whether it’s
celebrity obsession, glamour, or the fixation with violence. Her 1989 sculpture 'Bluewald', which explores the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the
subsequent killing of his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, sold in 2015 for $ 8
Tamara de Lempicka
De Lempicka was a favourite in Hollywood and is often touted as ‘the first woman
artist to be a glamour star.’ The Polish Art Deco painter was a refugee of WWI
living in Paris where she developed a sensual approach to soft Cubism, whilst
fully embracing the spirit of the 1920s. <her painting 'Le Rêve (Rafaëla Sur Fond Vert)' sold
for $8.4 million in 2011.
Perhaps one of the most widely known names to feature on this list; Kahlo's work is marked by the vivid
colours and symbolism of traditional Mexican art. The artist is famous for her persistent exploration of the female form and her self-representation
through many introspective self-portraits. Her painting 'Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra
Misma)' (1939) sold for $8 million.