Art Market

Two Joan Mitchell paintings could bring more than $19 million total at Phillips.

Shannon Lee
Nov 9, 2020 7:22PM, via Artnet News

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1979. Courtesy of Phillips.

Two Joan Mitchell paintings will be on offer as part of Phillips’s upcoming 20th century and contemporary art evening sale on December 7th. The paintings, an untitled canvas from 1953–54 and an untitled diptych from 1979, are expected to sell for between $19 million and $27 million—the former bears an estimate of $10 million to $15 million, while the diptych is estimated between $9 million to $12 million.

The two works bookend Mitchell’s groundbreaking career, with Untitled (1953—54) dating from the beginning of the most sought-after period of her practice, which lasted through the early 1960s. Phillips is hoping for an additional surge in interest ahead of a major retrospective set to open at the Baltimore Museum of Art next March, which will then travel to the San Francisco Museum of Art.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1953–54. Courtesy of Phillips.

In addition to the two paintings by Mitchell, the sale will also include a $35-million painting by David Hockney, a standout 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a late 1960s Ruth Asawa sculpture, along with works by Picasso, Magritte, Barkley Hendricks, Mickalene Thomas, and Amy Sherald. Robert Manley, Phillips’s deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art, told Artnet News the sale is expected to be “one of the highest-valued sales in the history of Phillips.”

This auction announcement is in line with recent recognition of Mitchell’s work on the secondary market; six out of Mitchell’s top seven auction records have come since 2018. If Untitled (1953–54) reaches its high estimate, it would become Mitchell’s second-highest auction result—her record, set by Blueberry (1969) at Christie’s in 2018, is $16.6 million. According to Artsy data, demand for Mitchell’s work has been steadily increasing year after year, with a particularly notable spike from 2016 to 2017, when inquiries nearly doubled.

Further Reading: The Art Market Is Finally Catching Up with Joan Mitchell’s Genius

Update: November 10th, 2020

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the diptych painting Untitled (1979) by the title “Two Pianos,” which was incorrect. The article has been updated accordingly.

Shannon Lee