Sotheby’s offers major works by 20th century female artists in $50m Ginny Williams Collection sale

Coinciding with the auction house's New York sale room re-opening in June, the sale marks the first time female artists will comprise over two-thirds of the value of an evening auction

Lee Krasner's "Re - Echo" (1957) is estimated to sell for $4m-$6m. Courtesy of Sotheby's

Lee Krasner's "Re - Echo" (1957) is estimated to sell for $4m-$6m. Courtesy of Sotheby's

Sotheby’s will offer the collection of the late gallerist and collector Ginny Williams in several sales beginning the 29 June, coinciding with the re-opening of its New York sale rooms that week. The collection of more than 450 works, which is estimated to sell for more than $50m, "will be the first time female artists will comprise over two-thirds of the value of the sale," says Saara Pritchard, senior vice president and senior specialist in Sotheby’s contemporary art department.

Known for collecting the work of pioneering female artists, Williams amassed works by the series by artists like Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and Agnes Martin. A dedicated evening sale that immediately precedes Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 29 June will include a number of works by Louise Bourgeois, who Williams collected in depth, including a bronze sculpture, Observer (1945-47), estimated to sell for between $1.5m and $2m, from the artist's Personages series.

Other highlights of the collection include Joan Mitchell’s nine-foot-tall painting Straw (1976), estimated at $5m-$7m, and Lee Krasner’s Re-Echo (1957), which could sell for between $4m and $6m. A sale scheduled for 14 July will comprise more than 1,000 works by female photographers like Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott and Annie Leibovitz.

"While [works by female artists] are very 'of the moment' for collectors and the larger market, the shocking reality is that this has historically never happened," Pritchard says. "It’s a testament to Ginny’s passion for supporting female artists and collecting many of them in depth. All further proof of how truly groundbreaking and ahead of her time she was.”

Robert Mapplethorpe's "Lisa Lyon" (1981) has an estimate of $30m-$50m. Courtesy of Sotheby's

Born in rural Virginia in 1927, Williams was a dynamic force in the contemporary art and photographs communities in Denver, Colorado, where she lived and worked from the late-1950s onward. She came to know many artists through her involvement over the years with the boards of the Denver Art Museum as well as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

While her collection was dominated by female artists, she also favoured abstraction and photography writ large, and works from Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Hans Hofmann are also included in the sale as well as works by 20th century photographers Edward Weston, Herbert Bayer and Robert Mapplethorpe.

The sale—originally planned to take place in May but postponed due to coronavirus—is still pending the lifting of certain restrictions in New York due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Clients and visitors can expect extra precautions to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors, as well as creative opportunities for those wishing to preview our exhibitions and participate in our auctions—from in-person and virtual appointments to enhanced digital experiences," the auction house writes in a statement. A more detailed sale and exhibition schedule will be announced in due course.