Sotheby’s Exhibits Huge Taubman Collection Prior to Sales

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Inside Sotheby’s $500 Million Bet on Restoring Image of Ex-Chairman.

A. The lineup features , Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and numerous other white males, along with exactly two works by women artists among the 77 lots—a gorgeous Mary Cassatt pastel, estimated at just $1–$1.5 million, and a Georgia O’Keeffe abstraction at $1.2–$1.8 million. Alfred Taubman, the late billionaire developer and former owner of Sotheby’s auction house, was a boundless art collector whose taste spanned every period, genre and medium, from works of antiquity to contemporary art. In advance of a series of sales of his 500-piece collection — believed to be worth more than $500 million — Sotheby’s has transformed its building inside and out to give a real sense of its depth and scope. The collection, which is on view through October 27th, goes on sale November 4, kicking off two weeks of blockbuster sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Taubman — who died in April at 91 — pulling out all the stops to promote the sale, beginning on Nov. 4, of his extensive art collection, from old masters like Raphael to 20th-century masterworks by Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Schiele and de Kooning. The auction catalogue indicates that in 1983, when Taubman owned the painting, it was hung in a show at the Whitney Museum of American Art that was devoted exclusively to works from the museum’s collection. Sotheby’s plan to augment its own fortunes depends, in part, on whether it can resurrect a positive image of Taubman that today’s public may not recall: that of a legacy collector, an esteemed patron, and, as the catalog calls him, “an American gentleman.” “This is a historic sale,” said Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s co-head of Impressionist and modern art worldwide. “There has never been a collection of this significance.” Sotheby’s marketing efforts include a custom-printed banner around its Upper East Side headquarters featuring images of artworks in the collection as part of the presale exhibition, which opens on Saturday. As it turns out, the Whitney owns a very similar example of the painting, a Sotheby’s rep told artnet News, but at the time of the show, the canvas was on loan to the Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam. Artworks are arranged not by period but more as they might have hung in Taubman’s numerous homes, in Manhattan; Detroit; Palm Beach, Florida; and Southampton. “What I would like people to come and see and walk away with is that there is no categorical segmentation of great art,” said Alex Rotter, Sotheby’s co-head of contemporary art.

Not only did Sotheby’s fight hard to win the sale away from its archrival Christie’s (finally succeeding after several months’ effort in September) but it fully guaranteed the sale for $500 million to the Taubman family. It’s like a man at a gambling table [who] feels that he can’t lose.” The gamble may pay off big: With an estimate at $25–$35 million, the work is in potential record-setting range. De Kooning’s current auction high, set at Christie’s New York in November 2013, is $32 million, so even at the low end of that range, it will set a record when the house’s fees are added in. Sotheby’s hopes the sale, which includes more than 500 pieces spread across four dedicated auctions, ranks among the biggest, like Christie’s $477 million Yves St. It’s also worth noting that Sotheby’s may be taking a gamble, too; the entire sale has been guaranteed by the house to reach a total of $500 million, according to an SEC filing.

He is credited with transforming Sotheby’s into a global powerhouse, but his reputation was tarnished in 2001 when he was convicted in a price-fixing scandal that embroiled the auction house. Moreover, the sale represents the first real test for Sotheby’s president and chief executive, Tad Smith, who took over in March (promising shareholders that he would make judicious use of guarantees to sellers). The sale begins the evening of Nov. 4 with the most valuable pieces including de Kooning’s richly colored “Untitled XXI,” estimated to sell for $25 million to $35 million; Amedeo Modigliani’s “Paulette Jourdain,” with a pre-sale estimate of more than $25 million; and Picasso’s “Woman Seated on a Chair,” a portrait of his lover and muse Dora Maar painted in 1938, which could bring up to $35 million.

During the first half of 1919, the year he probably painted this work, controversial Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir agreed to meet with the artist, saying, “I have heard that he is a great painter.” He caught on just in time, since Modigliani would die the next year. Even corrected for inflation, that’s just $7.7 million, so if this painting reaches its $35 million high estimate, including fees, it will have increased fivefold in value. I can’t forecast the art market.” “The quality of the collection is outstanding,” said James Corcoran, the longtime Los Angeles dealer who sold several pieces to Mr. Taubman collected work that “wasn’t necessarily the prettiest or the easiest.” She also called out the Modigliani, “Paulette Jourdain” — which Mr. Taubman, a shopping mall magnate, transformed the auction business from one directed at dealers and gallerists to one that directly targeted collectors. “More than any other single figure, he created today’s auction market,” Mr.

Smith said the sale was worth fighting for and he was comfortable with having had to compete for it. “We thought it was very important to our shareholders to have it,” he said. William and other family members (including William’s wife, Ellen, and sister Gayle Taubman Kalisman) have been involved in every detail of the sale, from the font for the graphics to the paint color of the exhibition walls.

Taubman did not collect along thematic lines, William said, although there are some consistencies. “My father loved faces,” William said, “whether Schiele or Modigliani or Bacon” — and geometric pieces, all of which he mixed together in his homes. Visitors will view Frank Stella’s geometric painting through a Henry Moore sculpture, for example, “the way you did in my father’s house,” William said. Trained as an architect, he had a sharp aesthetic eye, William said, starting to collect in the 1950s and buying contemporary art before it was in vogue — Morris Louis, Andy Warhol and Franz Kline.

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