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April 22, 2021, 4:29 p.m. EDT

Sotheby’s Unveils First Auction Dedicated to Women Artists

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Sotheby’s will hold an online-only auction in May dedicated to female artists who have been marginalized by history due to their gender.

Dubbed “(Women) Artists,” the sale will feature works by female artists from the 17th through 21st centuries, exploring their historical contributions to the art world as well as their personal stories.

“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,” Marina Ruiz Colomer, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s London , said in a statement. “Yes, these artists are women, but more importantly, they are artists.”

The sale, set for May 20-27, is still open for consignments, Sotheby’s said. So far, there are 38 confirmed works, including a 1687 Dutch painting by the then-22-year-old artist Rachel Ruysch ; a large canvas by Laura Knight , the first woman to be granted full membership of the Royal Academy in the 1930s; and a sculpture by the first female Turner Prize winner, Rachel Whiteread .

During the sale, Sotheby’s will also hold a virtual panel discussion with Marina Abramović, a Serbian conceptual and performance artist who explores body art and feminist art.

“I feel a really big injustice because work by women artists is under-priced,” the 74-year-old Abramović said in a statement through Sotheby’s. “You still have people like Cindy Sherman , whose works are really well-priced...But there are some great people who don’t have her profile and the work is wonderful.”

Abramović’s first major exhibition in the U.K. at the Royal Academy of Arts, originally scheduled for September 2020, had been moved to this fall.

One of the highlights of the sale is Ruysch’s (1664-1750) Forest floor still life with a pool , with a presale estimate of between £150,000 (US$207,500) and £200,000. The painting has not been seen publicly since it was acquired in The Hague, Netherlands, in the 1950s, according to Sotheby’s.

Ruysch delayed marriage to focus on her artistic pursuit, until meeting fellow painter Juriaen Pool in her 30s. Although she had 10 children, she continued painting until her 80s and achieved international recognition in her lifetime. Her paintings, alongside works by other female artists, will be permanently exhibited in the Rijksmuseum in its Gallery of Honor, the Amsterdam-based museum recently announced.

Additional highlights include Dorothea Tanning’s (1910-2012) The   Witch , with a low estimate of £220,000; Knight’s (1877-1970) The Gift (The Flower), one of the largest of her canvases, which is estimated to sell above £150,000, as well as Whiteread’s (1963-) 2006 sculpture, Wait , with a low estimate of £60,000.

“Many of the female artists we are offering here were well known and respected within their lifetimes, but history has not treated them kindly,” Lisa Stevenson , a specialist of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s London, said in a statement. “We need to explore their narrative and celebrate their contribution and achievement. If we can bring visibility to just some of those through this sale, then we have made a step towards the right direction.”

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