A never-before-seen masterpiece by Mark Rothko and one of Andy Warhol’s last self-portraits are among dozens of works up for auction this spring in the sale of one of the greatest art collections modern contemporary ever constituted.
The Macklowe collection, which was amassed by real estate magnate Harry Macklowe and Linda Burg, honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is being sold to help settle the billionaire couple’s acrimonious divorce.
Last November, more than $676m (£503m) was paid for the first half of the collection, in the most valuable single auction ever and most valuable action organized by Sotheby’s, one of the world’s leading art houses.
On Friday, Sotheby’s unveiled 30 other works, which will be offered at auction in New York in May. Highlights were unveiled in London by Barbican Art Director Will Gompertz and Barbican Curator Eleanor Nairne.
Among these was Rothko’s Untitled from 1960, a rich, oxblood-colored and meditative piece from a critical moment in the artist’s career, expected to fetch between $35 million and $50 million. The work demonstrates the deepening of Rothko’s palate, as he moved away from the bright colors he used in the mid-1950s towards more emotive colors.
One of Warhol’s last works, a monumental self-portrait painted as he contemplates his own legacy and status, is expected to fetch $15-20 million. Vanitas: Skulls and Self Portraits by Andy Warhol is part of the artist’s “fright wig” series of works dating from 1986.
Warhol’s use of camouflage depicts his performative relationship with identity and his sense of playfulness. The artist died just nine months after creating the work.
Seestück (Seascape) by Gerhard Richter, a large-scale 1975 painting capturing the beauty of the natural world, will also be sold, as will two paintings by Willem de Kooning – Untitled, from 1961, and Untitled XIII, from 1984. Other artists like Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and Jeff Koons are also present.
“The November sale of 35 works from the Macklowe Collection captivated top collectors around the world and set records in the process,” said Charles F Stewart, Managing Director of Sotheby’s. “We are delighted to present 30 more works from this legendary collection in May, in what is sure to be another highly anticipated sale.”
The Macklowes have built up their art collection over nearly six decades of marriage. The couple were known to trade barbed wire at public events, and their marital disputes eventually resulted in a divorce. But neither they nor their lawyers could agree on the value of their art collection, so a judge ordered them to be sold.
Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s President and Global Head of Sales for Global Fine Art, said the collection told “the story of art in its highest form, with the utmost precision and clarity.” Each artist here is represented at a moment of deep creativity.”