Georgia O’Keefe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” sold at Sotheby’s New York auction of American Art on Thursday for a triumphant $44.4 million. Sotheby’s noted the price paid was more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. Hat tip to Marginal Revolution for finding the utmost in parochial analysis of the sale.
The art sale gender pay gap

by Tyler Cowen on November 22, 2014

A Georgia O’Keeffe painting just sold for over $44 million, setting a new record for a painting by a woman; the previous record was for a Joan Mitchell painting auctioned for $11.9 million.  A Francis Bacon once auctioned for $142.4 million, and so:Despite the huge O’Keeffe sale, the cavern between the men’s and women’s records remains yawning. The gender pay gap is something like 84 cents to the dollar. The art sale “record gap” is now about 31 cents to the dollar. Before Thursday, it was 8 cents.That is by Oliver Roeder, the full article is here.

JIMSON WEED/WHITE FLOWER NO. 1, Georgia O'Keefe. 1932

JIMSON WEED/WHITE FLOWER NO. 1, Georgia O’Keefe. 1932

In case you didn’t read the full article, here is Roeder’s concluding paragraph:

The art market is booming (No, really?) — Christie’s and Sotheby’s alone sold $1.78 billionwith-a-B worth of art in one week this month. The Bacons and Warhols and Richters and Koonses of the world routinely make headlines. Perhaps Thursday’s news out of Sotheby’s augurs well for the O’Keeffes, Mitchells, Shermans and Kusamas, too.

Not to say Roeder is myopic but I guess he missed Thursday’s real (statistical) news out of Sotheby’s about Georgia O’Keefe. There was a prolonged battle between two determined bidders for “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” which nearly tripled its high sale estimate of $15 million.

There is no perhaps about it, Mr Roeder, O’Keefe’s huge sale augurs well for her. As you said, the art market is booming. Had you read the Agustino Fontevecchia post you’d linked to in Forbes, you would have noticed he said, “the art market has effectively become ‘financialized,’ turning works into assets that can be traded like equities and commodities.” 

So perhaps owning a Georgia O’Keeffe is a booming asset and has nothing whatsoever with the gender pay gap. It’s not hard to understand unless your name is Oliver Roeder, the economics fellow at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice.


NOTE: For six years, “Jimson Weed /White Flower No. 1”  hung in the private dining room in the White House during the George W. Bush administration. This is a wild theory, but I propose the prolonged battle between the two bidders are part of an ongoing feud which has nothing to do with the art market. Oh, the intrigue.