Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXI 1976 $25/35 million
More than 500 works spanning the period from antiquity to contemporary art from the collection of A. Alfred Taubman are to come up at Sotheby’s in New York. They will be sold in a series of dedicated auctions beginning in the autumn. The sales are estimated at more than $500 million, making this the most valuable private collection ever offered at auction. Represented in the broad-ranging collection are an impressive number of iconic artists including: Mark Rothko and Frank Stella; Pablo Picasso and Egon Schiele; Winslow Homer and Charles Burchfield; and Albrecht Dürer and Raphael.
Alfred Taubman, who passed away in April at the age of 91, immersed himself in the arts throughout his life – from his early training as an architect, to critical roles as a founder of the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art and longtime Chairman of the Arts Commission of Detroit, the entity which oversaw the Detroit Institute of Arts. A self-made man he launched The Taubman Company in 1950 with a $5,000 loan. He revolutionized the retail experience, creating many design innovations considered standard today. In 1983 he acquired Sotheby’s. He set about changing the way Sotheby’s did business opening it up beyond the dealers who were its historic mainstays and helping to create the stunning growth of the international art market.
Under his stewardship, sales such as The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor (1987), The Andy Warhol Collection (1988), and the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1996) were presented.
In the early 2000s, an investigation into alleged price-fixing between Sotheby’s and Christie’s led to a confession by Sotheby’s ceo Diana Brooks of a price fixing scheme. In a plea bargain arrangement prosecutors offered to keep her out of prison if she agreed to implicate Taubman. She did. Taubman was convicted in a jury trial of price fixing. He was fined $7.5 million sent to jail for ten months. After his release in 2003 he continued to insist on his innocence. Works from his collection will be presented at sales of Masterworks on November 4, Modern and Contemporary Art on November 5, American Art on November 18 and Old Masters on January 27, 2016.
Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Page c1770 $3/4 million
Martin Johnson Heade, The Great Florida Sunset 1887 $7/10 million