Part of Kippy Stroud's art collection will be sold to support Fabric Workshop and Museum

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Georgia O'Keeffe's "Red Hills with Pedernal, White Cloudsoil" is expected to fetch $3 million to $5 million at auction on May 19.

A portion of Marion Boulton "Kippy" Stroud's art collection, including four Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, will be sold at auction in the coming months to help fund the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the contemporary art institution Stroud founded in 1977.

Stroud, who died in August, was the seemingly indefatigable force behind the Fabric Workshop, directing operations, formulating artistic plans, and helping secure funding for its ambitious exhibitions and programs.

Over the decades, artists have been invited to spend time there creating everything from ties to massive installations; they have participated in collaborative projects; and they have been enticed, Stroud once said, "to explore, to take liberties."

Ann Loftus, foundation chair and one of the executors of Stroud's estate, said that in her will, Stroud directed that the bulk of her estate be distributed to the Marion Boulton "Kippy" Stroud Foundation, whose primary purpose is to support the Fabric Workshop at 1214 Arch St. The foundation, Loftus said, has no assets but will serve as repository for money from the auctions.

Mark Rosenthal, a Fabric Workshop board member and an executor of Stroud's estate, said the entire Stroud art collection encompassed about 1,500 works of art, including many by artists associated with the Fabric Workshop.

He declined to provide further details, noting decisions regarding disposition of the artworks had not been finalized. Works to be sold over the next few months represent two-thirds to three-fourths of the collection's market value, he said.

The most valuable pieces of art will be offered at Christie's American art auction in New York on May 19. Those works include three oils and a watercolor by O'Keeffe that Christie's expects to fetch between $7.8 million and $12 million.

Works by Marsden Hartley, George Bellows, Arthur Dove, Henrietta M. Shore, and Joseph Stella also will be auctioned at that time. They are expected to go for less than $1 million total.

Additional works will also be offered at a May 11 auction of postwar and contemporary art, including pieces by Franz West, Nick Cave, Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, and Matthew Barney. Christie's expects those works to sell for at least $530,000.

Details of a third auction, in July, are not yet available.

Proceeds of all these sales will go to the foundation, which will determine how the money can best be used to support the Fabric Workshop.

"The foundation is now in the process of figuring out the best way of moving forward," Loftus said.

Susan Talbott, serving as the workshop and museum's interim director, said the sale of the art and the decisions of the Stroud Foundation were "really about the survival of the Fabric Workshop and Museum."

"The Fabric Workshop is functioning at the level of a major contemporary art museum in terms of the work it presents," she said. "It's a small museum with a small staff doing incredibly ambitious projects."

Opening on April 21 will be Ally, an exhibition of art and dance conceived and performed by artist Janine Antoni in collaboration with choreographer Stephen Petronio and movement artist Anna Halprin. Ally involves performance, installation environments, videos, and sculptures and will occupy four floors of the Fabric Workshop building.

The exhibition runs through July 31 and will be followed by a book edited by Adrian Heathfield.

Later in the year, Ann Hamilton will present a tactile bidding, an installation, performance, and exhibition unfolding at a large civic space and at the museum.

"This is an astoundingly ambitious project," Talbott said. "It's going to rock Philadelphia."

Such work is expensive, as well. In the past, Stroud was able to tap donors and funds in support of workshop efforts. Now, that responsibility falls to the foundation working with the workshop.

Talbott says she feels "increasingly confident that the future of the Fabric Workshop is secure."

ssalisbury@phillynews.com

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