Weekly Roundup: Whitney Museum Announces Opening Date, Sotheby’s CEO to Step Down, and More

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In case you missed it, here’s what made headlines in the art world this week:

Georgia O’Keeffe painting sets auction record for female artist
A Georgia O’Keeffe painting of a white flower set an auction record for a work by a female artist selling for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s. Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold on Thursday for almost three times the work’s high estimate of $15 million, the New York-based auction house said in a statement. The previous auction record for any work by a woman was $11.9 million, set by Joan Mitchell for an untitled painting at Christie’s in New York in May. O’Keeffe’s previous auction record was $6.2 million, set at Christie’s in New York in May 2001. Jimson Weed, an oil on canvas from 1932 of a close-up white flower with lush green leaves, was sold by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to benefit its acquisitions fund. [Bloomberg News]

Whitney announces opening date of its new home in Chelsea
The Whitney Museum of American Art’s new Rienzo Piano-designed building in Manhattan’s meatpacking district is to open on May 1. Adam D. Weinberg, the director of the Whitney, delivered the news at the museum’s annual gala on Wednesday night, where 600 guests gathered to honor the many artists whose works have been shown in the landmark Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue and 75th Street. The Whitney’s new downtown home at 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West Streets, will have outdoor as well as uninterrupted indoor galleries, with about twice the exhibition space of its old home. [The New York Times]

Sotheby’s CEO to step down
Chief Executive William F. Ruprecht is leaving Sotheby’s, months after hedge-fund activist Dan Loeb and several others joined the auction house board. The company has said Ruprecht’s departure was by mutual agreement with the board, which took a hard look at Sotheby’s senior management in August and spent months afterward discussing a possible succession plan for the CEO. When the board met Thursday morning, the decision of its dozen directors was unanimous: Mr. Ruprecht should step aside. The executive, an over 30 year veteran of Sotheby’s, became CEO of the company in 2000 and was elected chairman in 2012. Ruprecht will continue as chairmain, president, and CEO until his successor is in place. [Wall Street Journal]

World’s largest collection of Asian art to hit auction block
The largest private collection of Asian art ever to go to auction will come under the hammer at Christie’s in March 2015. The sale’s 2,000 lots were amassed by the late Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Chinese furniture, Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art, as well as modern Chinese paintings comprise a large part of his collection. It will be sold online and in love auctions over a five-day period in March 2015 at Christie’s New York. There will also be a sale of English and European furniture and decorative arts culled from Ellsworth’s home in New York City. The auction’s highlights will tour Asia, kicking off with a stop in Hong Kong on November 21st. [artnet news]

Napoleon’s hat fetches $2.4 million at auction
A South Korean collector has paid $2.4 million at auction for a hat worn by the French Emperor Napoleon. two-pointed hat, a style widely worn by military officers at the time, was apparently donned by Napoleon during the Battle of Marengo in 1800. It was later offered as a gift to Napoleon’s veterinarian. The Monaco royal family put the hat on sale, along with hundreds of other items of Napoleon memorabilia, at the auction in Fontainebleau, near Paris. The auction house listed the hat with an expected selling price of between €300,000 and €400,000, but the experts had predicted the bidding would go far higher. The South Korean buyer eventually paid €1.5 million, with added fees bringing the final price to almost €1.9 million. [BBC News]

Philanthropist saves Italian Renaissance masterpiece
A philanthropist has stepped in to fund the restoration of a 15th-century fresco by Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca. Experts have warned that The Resurrection (1463-65)–located in the Museo Civico of Sansepolcro, in the painter’s native town in Tuscany–is showing concerning cracks, flaking, and signs of discoloration. A restoration project for the piece has thus been set in motion. But, given the dire state of the Italian economy–which has severed the budgets allocated for the preservation of historical pieces–the institution has had to seek private sponsorship to find this much needed initiative. Italian businessman Aldo Osti has donated half of the €200,000 required to save the painting, even though the masterpiece still belongs to the state. [artnet news]

Image: Detail of Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1, 1932