The history-spanning art collection of the late billionaire A. Alfred Taubman, a developer who once owned Sotheby’s auction house, is on display there for a few days before the bidding starts.
NEW YORK — A. 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.
Three hundred of the works fill the lobby and the entire 10th floor of the building. The dedicated exhibition runs for four days only, from Saturday through Tuesday.
Two floors of the exterior are wrapped in a vinyl material featuring many of the pieces and artists in the collection. The names of Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Alberto Giacometti and others are splashed across the surface in blue lettering reminiscent of the Viennese Succession-style Taubman cherished.
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Long banners with images of the paintings hang from the 10th floor into the lobby.
In the 10th-floor galleries, smaller rooms have been created within bigger spaces. Artworks are arranged not by period but more as they might have hung in Taubman’s numerous homes, in Manhattan; Detroit; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Southampton, N.Y.
“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.
Old Master paintings can be seen together with American art from the late 1900s. Elsewhere, a piece of antiquity appears next to a Francis Bacon work from 1961.
The collection will be offered over four dedicated sales. If it fetches its estimated $500 million haul, it would be the most valuable private collection sold at auction, rivaling the $477 million sale of designer Yves Saint Laurent’s estate at Christie’s in Paris in 2009.
“There is something in this sale that almost any serious collector would want,” said Sarah Lichtman, assistant professor of design history at Parsons School of Design. “It is like a veritable stroll through an art history textbook.”
Taubman, who died in April at age 91, was a Detroit-based shopping-mall magnate who purchased Sotheby’s in 1983. He also was a founder of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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. He spent nine months in prison.
Sotheby’s said proceeds from the sale would be used to settle his estate’s tax obligations and fund a foundation.
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.
Frank Stella’s “Delaware Crossing,” estimated at $8 million to $12 million, could set a record for the artist.
A day sale Nov. 5 continues with modern and contemporary art by Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Egon Schiele and others.
On Nov. 18, works of American art go on the auction block, including a large landscape by Martin Johnson Heade, “The Great Florida Sunset,” painted in 1887.
Highlights of the Jan. 27 sale include Raphael’s “Portrait of Valerio Belli, Facing Left” and Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Page.”