New York’s autumn auction season got off to a $377 million start with Masterworks from the Collection of A. Alfred Taubman, the first of four sales dedicated to the holdings of the legendary collector, businessman and philanthropist. Photographers snapped away on the red carpet, and reporters tweeted with zest, as hundreds of bidders arrived for this much-anticipated event. The auction’s undisputed highlight was Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of Paulette Jourdain, one of Mr Taubman’s favourite paintings. In the packed saleroom, bidding began at $17 million and climbed steadily to a final high of $42.8 million.
AMEDEO MODIGLIANI, PAULETTE JOURDAIN, 1919. SOLD FOR $42,810,000.
A dozen works of art soared past the $10 million mark. Paintings by American postwar artists were especially strong performers, with two paintings by Mark Rothko among the top ten lots: Untitled (Lavender and Green), which brought $20.4 million; and No. 6 Siena/Orange on Wine, selling for $17.6 million. Willem de Kooning’s lush 1976 abstraction Untitled XXI sold for $24.89 million while Clyfford Still’s PH-218 brought $14.8 million. Frank Stella, currently the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, was represented by Delaware Crossing, 1961, a geometric red-and-white stripe painting, which came in at $13.7 million – double the artist’s previous record at auction.
FRANK STELLA, DELAWARE CROSSING, 1961. SOLD FOR $13,690,000.
As a collector, Taubman was eclectic, and one of the surprises of the sale was an extraordinary group of important works on paper by Egon Schiele, an artist he collected in depth. Six Schiele drawings offered this evening brought a total of $13.5 million. Seven pieces of sculpture were offered at the auction, and all of them sold – for a total of $31.7 million. A standout was Joan Miró’s La Porte (Object), which sold for $13.4 million.
EGON SCHIELE, SEATED MALE NUDE, RIGHT HAND OUTSTRETCHED), 1910. SOLD FOR $3,370,000.
While this evening’s sale concentrated on Modern and Contemporary masterworks, the full breadth of Taubman’s collection – which included Old Masters, Antiquities, and American Art – will be offered over the course of several months. “Collecting art should be, above all else, fun,” he once remarked. “Buy what you love.”