Tech & Science Three New York Galleries to Sell Financier's Art Collection

23:25  19 february  2020
23:25  19 february  2020 Source:   online.wsj.com

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NEW YORK (AP) — Works of art collected by the late Wall Street financier Theodore Forstmann are set to be sold at auction this spring and could fetch as much as million, Sotheby' s announced Tuesday. About 50 pieces from his collection will be offered across several sales in May

a painting of a colorful wall © Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ the Donald B. Marron Family Collecti...

Billionaire financier and collector Don Marron’s art estate will be sold privately by a trio of top New York galleries, signaling sellers’ skittishness to absorb the spotlight and risk of an auction in a shaky art market.

The fate of the coveted collection—amassed over a half-century by the former PaineWebber chairman and including works by Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko—had been a hot topic in art circles since Mr. Marron died at age 85 in December.

A number of market observers said the estate had a value of at least $450 million.

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In recent weeks, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips had been competing hard to auction the property, with observers predicting the estate would add luster to the coming spring auctions.

The houses had each guaranteed Mr. Marron’s widow, Catie Marron, that the collection would sell for at least $300 million at auction, according to two people familiar with the houses’ offers.

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Instead, Ms. Marron on Tuesday agreed to let Pace, Acquavella and Gagosian galleries sell the majority of the roughly 300 works in the collection.

The three galleries, like the auction houses, had promised to buy the works if they couldn’t sell them.

The galleries declined to disclose the amount they had pledged Ms. Marron for the collection. Bill Acquavella said, “It was a lot of money, so we have to deliver—we can’t send any works back to her.”

The decision to go with private sales rather than public auctions may reflect a broader trend of consigners valuing discretion over flashy public sales, observers said.

While auctions offer a chance at both potential upside, they also can bring unwelcome public downside, if works don’t find any buyers.

Private sales can shield owners from seeing their works disappoint on the block.

The galleries are longtime rivals, but said they decided to team up for the first time to “make a point” that galleries can compete with auction houses for blockbuster estates, said Marc Glimcher, president and chief executive of Pace and the deal’s architect.

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Ms. Marron declined to comment but Mr. Glimcher said he invited her to Pace a month ago and made the consortium’s case.

“We want to celebrate how Don built this collection instead of dismantling it,” he said.

“All this auction talk of numbers and people bidding wasn’t exciting to her. Private sales are private, and sometimes that’s an advantage.”

Sotheby’s and Christie’s declined to comment. Phillips deputy chairman Jean-Paul Engelen confirmed his house had competed for the works.

The three galleries will co-organize a major show chronicling the collection that will be displayed in some of their New York spaces by April 24, with the galleries selling Mr. Marron’s works in the meantime and after.

Exact dates, themes and selections for the joint show are still being decided, but Mr. Glimcher confirmed that the gems in Mr. Marron’s collection will be part of the group being sold—including Pablo Picasso’s 1937 portrait, “Woman with Beret and Collar,” and Mark Rothko’s 1957 abstract, “Number 22 (Reds).”

Mr. Glimcher declined to give prices for these or any other works, but he said after the show opens, prices will be given for any unsold works in the show. Art-house publisher Phaidon will issue a book about Mr. Marron’s collection.

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A native New Yorker, Mr. Marron was a fixture of the city’s financial and cultural elite.

He joined New York Trust Co. while he was still a teenager, founding his own Wall Street firm, D.B. Marron & Co., in 1959 and selling it in 1965 to the securities firm of Mitchell, Hutchins & Co., where he became president two years later. In the ’70s, Mr. Marron began collecting art—Hudson River paintings first, then modern masters like Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and Paul Klee.

After PaineWebber acquired Mitchell Hutchins in 1977, he became chairman of the combined firm and spent the next two decades helping PaineWebber amass a corporate art collection.

Much of that later formed part of UBS’s corporate art collection, aside from 50 pieces PaineWebber donated to the Museum of Modern Art. In 1985, Mr. Marron became president of MoMA, a post he held for five years. Over the ensuing years he remained president emeritus and personally donated pieces to the museum.

Mr. Glimcher said his father, Arne, and Mr. Acquavella were “very involved” early on in helping Mr. Marron shape his collection, and by 1980 they were joined by Larry Gagosian.

The men said Mr. Marron was known to buy in depth, building miniature collections of at least 50 artists including Cy Twombly, Brice Marden and Ed Ruscha. Mr. Marron liked to collect works on paper—Mr. Ruscha’s 1964 drawing “Honk” is one example—but he also had a penchant for energetic, wall-power abstract paintings like Mr. Twombly’s 2011 “Untitled (Camino Real)” and Mr. Marden’s “Complements, 2004-2007.”

More recently, he collected newer art-world favorites like Mark Bradford, Jonas Wood and Mark Grotjahn.

Mr. Gagosian said Mr. Marron typically stopped by his gallery once a month, on a Saturday, and liked to chat about the latest twists in art and the markets. Consortiums aren’t entirely new for Mr. Gagosian.

He teamed up with others in 2008 to buy the vast art holdings of dealer Ileana Sonnabend.

Still, he said he was “pleasantly surprised” when Mr. Glimcher proposed they team up with Mr. Acquavella. “All dealers are rivals, but I think Don would be pleased to see us working together for once,” he said. “Maybe we can level the field a little bit.”

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