For its final evening sale of the fall season, Phillips has secured two significant works by Joan Mitchell from two ends of the artist’s career for sale. Alongside works by René Magritte, David Hockney, Helen Frankenthaler, Barkley Hendricks and Mickalene Thomas, the Mitchell paintings are scheduled to hit the block during the auction house’s modern and contemporary art evening sale on December 7 in New York. Together, the two works are poised to achieve a collective $19 million. The value makes up a solid portion of the sale’s pre-sale estimate of $110 million.
The earlier example, Untitled from 1953, completed during a critical period of transition in the artist’s career is estimated at $10 million-$15 million. The second untitled work is a diptych from 1979, included in the 2018 book Ninth Street Women, it was completed during the painter’s later period when her signature expressive style was well-developed. It is expected to achieve a price between $9 million-$12 million. Both large-scale works were acquired by each respective owner around 2006 from New York’s Cheim and Read.
In 1951, after gaining membership with the Eighth Street Club (The Club), founded by artists of the New York school, Mitchell joined the circle of Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, and Helen Frankenthaler. That same year, she was included in the seminal Ninth Street Show alongside post-war figures like Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline.
Her early style included influences from her study of modernists Arshile Gorky, Wassily Kandinsky’s and Paul Cézanne.A comparable untitled painting from 1953 resides at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; another untitled featuring a similar grey palette from 1952-1953 is at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. A comparable to the colorful 1979 painting on offer is Wood, Wind, No Tuba (1980), which resides at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The earlier painting has has been showcased widely including features in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Tate Modern in London and the Seattle Art Museum. According to Phillips statement, it has been requested for the artist’s forthcoming retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris scheduled to take place from March 2021-February 2023. The 1979 work was last exhibited in 1980 and formerly owned by American postwar art collectors Hannelore and Rudolph Schulhof of New York.
Mitchell’s market has seen a recent uptick since 2018, with top works coming to evening sales and moving up price points, coinciding with David Zwirner taking on the artist’s estate. While neither of the works coming to Phillips were completed during the artist’s most coveted period, spanning the late 1950s to early 1960s, they are poised go bring leading prices. If the early untitled work reaches its high estimate, it will become the painter’s second-highest auction price, next to the sale of Blueberry (1969) for $16.6 million at Christie’s in 2018.