— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) November 20, 2014
A painting of a white blossom on a Jimson weed is now the most expensive work of art by a woman, and a record-setter for the late American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Her 1932 “Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1” made history at a Sotheby’s auction in New York on Thursday, selling for $44.4 million. That’s three times more than the previous record for a female artist and more than three times what auctioneers expected it to fetch. Seven initial bidders were narrowed down to two, with the winning bid made over the phone by an anonymous buyer.
The painting was sold by the museum that bears O’Keeffe’s name in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a means of bolstering its acquisitions fund. The museum holds 1,149 of O’Keeffe’s works but made the decision earlier this year to sell three paintings in order to acquire more. “The museum holds half the artist’s output throughout her life,” the museum’s director, Robert Kret, explained. “But still there are gaps that need to be filled.”
This particular painting has a storied history. For 6 years of President George W. Bush’s presidency it hung in the private dining room of the White House. To learn more about the painting, and O’Keeffe, watch this video from Sotheby’s.