Sotheby's is honored to offer over 450 works from the celebrated collection of Ginny Williams across a series of sales throughout 2020, beginning with a dedicated evening auction to be held on 29 June in New York.
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The Pioneering Collection of Ginny Williams
pioneering collector and lifelong patron of the arts, Ginny Williams was a dynamic force who transformed every community she touched. Amassed across her lifetime, the Ginny Williams Collection reflects the same indomitable spirit and singular creative vision which infused every aspect of her extraordinary life.
Born in rural Virginia in 1927, Ginny moved to Denver, Colorado in the late 1950s with her husband, Carl Williams. An avid photographer herself, who studied with Austrian-American photojournalist and photographer Ernst Haas, her collecting journey began with classical figurative photography. Her passion and keen eye eventually prompted her to open her namesake gallery in Denver in the 1980s. While her passion for photography never waned, remaining a primary focus of both her gallery and private collection, her voracious curiosity quickly widened her curatorial focus. Over time, Ginny became increasingly courageous and experimental in her selections, venturing into Abstract Expressionism and Contemporary Art and following her artists themselves through gallery shows and museum exhibitions. As the years passed, Ginny became as much of a trailblazer as the artists she collected.
Across her lifetime, a primary focus of Ginny’s efforts—whether as a collector, patron, or philanthropist—was her unfaltering advocacy for female artists. Her support of such artists as Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, and Louise Bourgeois – artists who have only in recent years begun to receive their critical and commercial due – speaks both to her singular eye and to her extraordinary defiance of an indisputably male-dominated canon. Ginny had a knack for selecting artists who truly mattered: years before her peers, in addition to purchasing paintings by such artists as Alice Neel and Helen Frankenthaler, Ginny collected images by Diane Arbus, Tina Modotti, Ruth Bernhard and Dorothea Lange, women now recognized as integral figures within the history of Twentieth Century photography. Especially prominent within the collection was Louise Bourgeois, for whom Ginny was both patron and friend. Over the course of their friendship, Ginny amassed over 40 of the artist’s sculptures and works on paper, spanning more than four decades. By the time of her passing in 2019, Ginny had assembled one of the largest collections of works by Bourgeois in private hands, established a new auction record for Helen Frankenthaler with her purchase of Royal Fireworks in 2011, and amassed an extensive collection in which the majority of works are by female artists.
Ginny’s vision was not limited to her own collection. Her compassion and generosity of spirit stretched from the Denver Art Museum, where she was a longtime board member, to the East Coast, where she spent time on the boards of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. At each of these prestigious institutions she worked tirelessly to fill the gaping space left for women artists by advocating for the acquisition of superb examples by such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Ann Hamilton, Cindy Sherman and Roni Horn, among innumerable others.
In her visionary and unwavering support for – and friendship with – leading women artists, Ginny Williams transformed the face of institutional and private collecting as we know it. Today, her extraordinary collection serves as enduring testament both to that trailblazing vision and to the dedication with which she championed it. Remembering Ginny as friend, collector, and individual, Amy Cappellazzo describes: “Decisive and impassioned, Ginny was a collector that stood apart from others – she understood artists and lived and breathed their work into her collection and her life. She was among the last of a rarefied tribe of old school collectors and dealers: a true artist at heart.”
“Decisive and impassioned, Ginny was a collector that stood apart from others – she understood artists and lived and breathed their work into her collection and her life. She was among the last of a rarefied tribe of old school collectors and dealers: a true artist at heart.”