This November in New York, Sotheby’s will bring to auction for the first time ever Roy Lichtenstein’s Female Head, a work from 1977. It is estimated to sell for as much as $15 million when it hits the block at the Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale at the York Avenue sales room this fall.
“To stand in front of this painting is to understand and appreciate Roy Lichtenstein’s enduring engagement with beguiling blondes, as well as his brilliance as one of the trailblazers of Pop Art,” Grégoire Billault, the head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department in New York, said in a release. “Vividly combining his favorite subject with his distinctive visual lexicon, Female Head is a magnum opus of the artist that will have universal appeal to collectors today.”
The work is being offered by the photographer and art historian Elizabeth Rea, who acquired it from Leo Castelli a few weeks after it was made and has remained the sole owner ever since. Rea served as the director of the Art Lending and Art Advisory departments at the Museum of Modern Art and was appointed by Castelli to be the director of the estate of Joseph Cornell, in which capacity she organized shows of the artist’s work at institutions around the world. She also assisted with Lichtenstein shows at MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum.
Rea’s late husband, Michael, founded the Rea Award for the Short Story, a $30,000 grant that celebrates a writer’s short-form output. A portion of the proceeds of the Sotheby’s auction will go to the foundation that endows that grant. Past winners, dating back to 1986, include Cynthia Ozick, Donald Barthelme, Lorrie Moore, and, last year, Jim Shepard.