Art Market

A trove of works that belonged to influential collector Ginny Williams is expected to bring $50 million at Sotheby’s.

Justin Kamp
May 22, 2020 4:11PM, via Sotheby’s

Joan Mitchell, Straw, 1976. Est. $5 million–$7 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s will sell more than 450 works from the collection of the trailblazing collector and gallerist Ginny Williams over a series of auctions, starting with a dedicated evening sale to be held in New York immediately before the house’s rescheduled marquee evening sale of conemporary art during the week of June 29th, the following contemporary art day auction, and continuing through to a dedicated photography sale on July 14th. The auction house estimates that Williams’s collection will achieve more than $50 million in total sales.

Williams, a lifelong champion of the arts and longtime art dealer who spent much of her life in Denver (and was a major supporter of the Denver Art Museum), died in September 2019 at age 92. She and her late husband Carl Williams made their fortune in cable television.

Lee Krasner, Re-Echo, 1957. Est. $4 million–$6 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s

The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale will be centered around her collection of pioneering female modernist artists. Highlights include Joan Mitchell’s Straw (1976), a massive and colorful canvas expected to go for between $5 million and $7 million; Lee Krasner’s Re-Echo (1957), from the artist’s seminal “Earth Green” series, which is expected to bring between $4 million and $ 6 million; and multiple works with $2-million to $3-million pre-sale estimates, including Helen Frankenthaler’s 15-foot-wide Royal Fireworks (1975), and Agnes Martin’s Mountain Flowers I (1985), a painting exemplary of the artist’s signature subtle gridwork. The collection also includes five pieces by Louise Bourgeois, with whom Williams cultivated a lifelong friendship, including Observer (1947–49), estimated to go for $1.5 million to $2 million.

The Ginny Williams photography auction, meanwhile, will feature 100 choice pieces from Williams’s collection of more than 1,000 photographs spanning from the early 20th century up through contemporary works. The July 14th sale will include Tina Modotti’s Interior of Church Tower at Tepotzotlán, Mexico (1924), estimated at $200,000 to $300,000; Edward Weston’s Dunes, Oceano (1936), estimated at $120,000 to $180,000; and Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Fabrikhallen (1989), estimated $80,000 to $120,000. Other notable photographers featured in the sale include Sandy Skoglund, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, and Ruth Bernhard.

Helen Frankenthaler, Royal Fireworks, 1975. Est. $2 million–$3 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s

Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, said in a statement:

Ginny Williams was a singular woman and collector. With her fiery red hair, intent gaze and radiant Southern charm, she captivated everyone she met. Decisive and impassioned, Ginny was a collector that stood apart from others – she understood artists, and lived and breathed their work into her collection and her life. She was among the last of a rarefied tribe of old school collectors and dealers, a true artist at heart.
Justin Kamp