Sotheby’s unveils its first all-female sale in its almost 300-year history

Robert Dex
·2-min read
<p> Dorothea Tanning’s The Witch is among work being sold in Sotheby’s first all-female sale</p> (Sothebys)

Dorothea Tanning’s The Witch is among work being sold in Sotheby’s first all-female sale


Sotheby’s is holding its first all-female sale in its almost 300-year history.

The auction house, which first opened its doors in 1744, will be selling work by artists ranging 17th century painters to 1993 Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread next month.

The final details are still being arranged but 26 lots have already been confirmed including a Barbara Hepworth bronze, valued at around £160,000, a still-life from 1687 by Rachel Ruysch expected to fetch £200,000 and a surrealist-influenced painting by Dorothea Tanning that could fetch £320,000.

Tanning, who rejected the label “woman artist”, was married to Max Ernst and often dismissively described as his wife but the quality of her work has seen her reputation grow in recent years.

Whiteread’s work, called Wait, is valued at £80,000 and is made up of six plaster moulds of cardboard boxes arranged around a chair.

Marina Ruiz Colomer, Director, Contemporary Art Specialist and Head of the Day Sale at Sothebys, said the auction house had wanted to do an all female sale “for ages” but it “takes time to get the ideas clear”.

She said: “We want to do it properly, we don’t want this to be just another sale.

“Historically women have been under represented in museum shows and gallery shows and even in auction houses and slowly things are getting better, we are seeing more and more amazing shows out there.”

She said interest from potential buyers had given them “confidence” the show will be a success and she estimated the total sale will top £1 million.

She added: “The artists do have one thing in common and that’s that they have historically been under-represented and under-valued and that is what we want to bring them together for.

“The divisive classification ‘women artists’ but never ‘male artists’ is at the heart of a debate that has been disputed for decades, and yet continues to be a trap that is so often fallen into. Female artists should not be pigeon-holed nor segregated, which is precisely why we are holding a sale that appears to be doing exactly that – in order to turn the tables and open up this debate. Yes, these artists are women, but more importantly, they are artists.”

The (Women) Artists sale will take place online from May 20-27 and will be accompanied by an exhibition at Sotheby’s New Bond Street from May 22-27.

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