Sotheby's announces 'Cherchez la femme: Women and Surrealism' selling exhibition to be held in September

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Sotheby's announces 'Cherchez la femme: Women and Surrealism' selling exhibition to be held in September
Toyen, La Guerre, 1945. Oil on canvas. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- This fall, Sotheby’s will present Cherchez la femme: Women and Surrealism, an exciting selling exhibition that celebrates the female artists at the heart of the Surrealist movement. Few artistic movements afforded such a prolific and revolutionary role for women, yet scholars and collectors alike have largely defined Surrealism in terms of its male participants. In recent years, however, a series of key museum exhibitions and unprecedented auction results have signified a turning point in the collective legacy of these women and a renewed appreciation for their invaluable contributions to the Surrealist genre.

Sotheby’s will bring together over 50 world-class examples by international female Surrealists both famed and obscure, including works by Toyen, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, Remedies Varo, and more. With price points ranging from $5,000 to over $1 million, Cherchez la femme will introduce a new generation of collectors to the mysterious world of these extraordinary artists. The exhibition will open to the public in our York Avenue galleries on 15 September and will continue through 17 October 2015.

Julian Dawes, Vice President in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department, said: “We are thrilled to bring much-deserved attention to this incredibly important group of works. The female artists of the Surrealism movement have historically been cast as followers of their male counterparts, rather than as the truly important innovators that they were. For how integral a role their art played during the period, their story is sadly under-told. It’s something that the art market has been noticing and reevaluating recently, and we are excited to be able to participate in this moment. The market for these works is rapidly appreciating, and as of now simply hasn’t found its ceiling. This exhibition will help us tell their story and show collectors that these female artists were masters in their own right and played a key part in shaping the Surrealist canon.”

A nascent interest in revisiting the major players behind the Surrealist art movement of the 20th Century has been seen in several successful museum exhibitions in recent years. These shows have challenged the prevailing art historical narrative that centers on male names such as Dali, Magritte and Ernst, and instead turned the spotlight on the pioneering female Surrealist artists.

In 2012, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held its comprehensive and well-received exhibition “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States,” which highlighted over 170 works by 48 female artists. In early 2015, Tate Liverpool held a solo exhibition exploring the oeuvre of the celebrated painter Leonora Carrington, and an ongoing exhibition at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens places Frida Kahlo’s arresting works in context with the natural world.

The mounting appreciation surrounding female Surrealist artists is further evidenced in recent art market activity. The American artist Kay Sage has seen explosive results at auction: in 2007 her top auction price was $72,000; in 2013 that benchmark jumped to $302,000; and in 2014 Sotheby’s London sold her self-portrait Le passage for an astounding $7,077,395.

Other artists represented in Cherchez la femme who saw their auction records broken in 2014 include: Leonora Carrington, whose The Temptation of St. Anthony sold for $2,629,000; Remedios Varo, whose Hacia la Torre brought $4,309,000; Dorothea Tanning, whose A Mrs. Radcliffe Called Today achieved $512,006; and Lee Miller, whose Untitled (Iron work) fetched $377,000. In many cases, these benchmark prices represent dramatic increases over their previous records at auction, demonstrating the market’s recent reevaluation and burgeoning interest in these artists’ work.

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