Women Artists Lead the Way in London Contemporary Auction

Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening & Day Auction Preview
Launch Slideshow

Seven women artists announce the beginning of the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 5 March – this line-up heralds the beginning of a sale that, beyond this initial sequence, contains the highest number of works by female artists ever to be presented in an evening auction – a statement of intent for the new Head of Contemporary Art Evening Sales in London, Emma Baker.

Women Artists Lead the Way in London Contemporary Auction

  • Jenny Saville, Juncture, 1994. Estimate £5,000,000–7,000,000.
    The first top lot of the sale is Jenny Saville’s monumental Juncture from 1994. This painting is a pure hymn to the beauty of flesh – its form is powerful and confrontational; we see female flesh in abundance on an utterly giant scale. Juncture is pure spectacle in paint; it’s a work that cannot be ignored and yet is so seductive and subtle at the same time. Juncture takes a pointedly feminist look at the art historical genre of the nude and turns the table on the traditional dynamic of male artist and female subject – by painting herself, she is at once the object of scrutiny and the artist in the seat of control.
  • Rebecca Warren, Fascia III, 2010. Estimate £250,000–350,000.
    Lot 2 is a totemic bronze by the Turner Prize nominated Rebecca Warren – equally inspired by the cartoons of Robert Crumb and the post-war slender forms of Alberto Giacometti, Warren hypes up the female anatomy in her take on traditional bronze statuary. This work speaks to ideas concerning embodiment and gender stereotypes – issues that have been at the forefront of the art historical dialogue since the second wave feminist movement in the 1960s and carry through to the present day as many artists continue to work through the history of female objectification in art.
  • Agnes Martin, Untitled #9, 1994. Estimate £1,800,000–2,200,000.
    1994 was an exciting time for Agnes Martin; this was when she had just truly began to acquire the critical acclaim that had eluded her for so many years. Even though Martin had been working since the 1960s alongside her Minimalist and Abstract Expressionist peers, it was not until the 1990s – much like Louise Bourgeois who had been similarly overlooked until the 1980s – that Martin entered the collections of intuitions and began having museum shows. This painting demonstrates a wonderful painterliness that bespeaks the reinvigoration of Martin’s practice during this exciting moment in her career.
  • Jenny Saville, Untitled, 1990. Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    The Evening Auction kicks off with this rare early drawing by Jenny Saville, a work given to the present owner’s family by the artist in 1992 – the same year as Saville’s landmark Glasgow degree show. This drawing is so strong and so quintessentially Saville; it has the same pose as Propped – the painting that broke the auction record for any living female artist in October last year – and presents the same sense of confrontation that distinguishes the very best works by the artist.
  • Tracey Emin, I Think its in my Head, 2002. Estimate £500,000–7,000,000.
    Emin hand sewed this tapestry in 2002 for an exhibition of the same name at Lehmann Maupin in New York. Its patchwork construction is so intricate and delicate; a real juxtaposition when set against the rawness of the words she has appliqued across the entirety of the work’s surface. As part of the YBA generation, Emin and her peers – artists such as Jenny Saville and Sarah Lucas – did so much to level the gender playing field in the landscape of contemporary art production and appreciation. In the early 1990s their work arrived as a bold and confrontational corrective to gender stereotypes that was utterly refreshing and totally unapologetic.
  • Louise Bourgeois, Remembering, 1999. Estimate £700,000–1,000,000.
    As an artist who began working in 1940s, it is amazing that Louise Bourgeois did not achieve the critical attention of her male peers until the 1980s and 1990s. Not accepted into the Surrealist circle with whom she first associated in Paris, Bourgeois similarly worked outside of the sphere of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism in New York during the 1950s and 60s; instead her work developed along an utterly singular trajectory tied to a cutting psychological and corporeal line of enquiry that was years ahead of her time.
  • Louise Bourgeois, Torso, Self-Portrait. Conceived in 1963-64 and carved in 1982. Estimate £1,000,000–1,500,000.
    Of the artists from our first seven in the evening sale, it is Bourgeois’s tremendous influence that is most readily felt: the abstract corpulence of Bourgeois’s 1960s Torso, Self-Portrait chimes with the Warren, while the hand-sewn fabric sculpture of Remembering resonates against the emotionally fraught tapestry I Think it's in my Head by Tracey Emin.
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