This Joan Mitchell Painting Could Fetch a Record $20 Million at Auction

A monumental diptych by Joan Mitchell will be sold this fall at Sotheby’s, where it is expected to surpass the artist’s auction record. The house has placed the work’s estimate at $20 million, and if it hits that number, it will outpace her previous benchmark by more than $3 million.

The painting, titled Sunflowers (1990–91), comes from the personal collection of John Cheim, a cofounder of the influential New York gallery Cheim & Read. Before cofounding Cheim & Read with dealer Howard Read in 1997, Cheim started his career with Robert Miller Gallery in 1978.

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Sunflowers, along with Cheim’s most notable works, will be included in Sotheby’s contemporary evening and day sales in New York this November. Additional lots will appear in other auctions through next year.

Mitchell gifted Sunflowers to Cheim shortly after the painting was finished in 1991. The painting has been part of a few major institutional exhibitions, including most recently “Monet-Mitchell,” which premiered at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris earlier this year. It also figured in the 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation.

The abstract expressionist’s current record was set in 2018 by Blueberry (1969), which sold for $16.6 million at Christie’s in New York.

Additional highlights from the Cheim collection that are expected to accompany Sunflowers on the block include an untitled 1960 Mitchell ($3.5 million–$4.5 million), a 1990 cast of a sculpture from Louise Bourgeois’s “Personages” series ($1.8 million–$2.5 million), the 1972 Alice Neel portrait Jackie Curtis as a Boy ($1.5 million–$2.5 million), the 1983 Jean-Michel Basquiat work on paper No Hay Crimen © (up to $1.8 million), and an untitled 1970 Lynda Benglis sculpture ($200,000–$300,000).

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