10 Ways to Spend $10 Million on Art

By Anthony Calnek
Maybe you have just inherited $10 million. Maybe you have written a best-seller. Or maybe, like me, you have a very rich imagination. Regardless, I am here to help you spend $10 million on art. At Sotheby’s new galleries . This May.

Here are the rules: First, assume that the final auction price will land somewhere in the middle of the low and the high estimates we’ve published in our catalogues. Second, for the purposes of this article, you may ignore sales taxes, VAT, buyer’s premium and shipping costs; life is just too short to bother with details like these. Third, I am giving you 10 options for spending $10 million on art, but feel free to let your creativity run loose and combine any of these offers!

1. SPEND IT ALL ON A SINGLE MASTERPIECE.

This is the most efficient way to allocate your budget. I went straight to our Contemporary Art Evening Auction, and in no time at all I found three sensational Abstract Expressionist paintings in the $8-12 million range – a De Kooning, a Rothko, and a Motherwell. I would be happy living with any of them for the rest of my life. What could be simpler?

Images from left to right: ROBERT MOTHERWELL, ELEGY TO THE SPANISH REPUBLIC NO. 134 , 1974. Estimate $9,000,000 - $12,000,000. WILLEM DE KOONING, UNTITLED X, 1975. Estimate $8,000,000 - $12,000,000,

2. GO DEEP IN A SINGLE ARTIST.

Many great collectors focus on artists they can’t get enough of. Our artist pages make it easy to see what’s on the market by your favorite. Gerhard Richter is a personal obsession (remember, I’m in the “rich imagination” category), and turns out we’ve got six options ranging from $35,000 to $9 million. I’ll take this one, this one, this one and this one!


3. DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EARLY.

Make a list of your 10 nearest and dearest and buy something in the $50k range for each. Your loved ones will be incredibly appreciative, and that still leaves $9.5 million for you to spend on that Rothko!

10 Lots Under 50K


4. POOL YOUR MONEY.

Yes, $10 million is a substantial sum, but I’m afraid it won’t get you that monumental Bouguereau you have somehow fallen in love with. No problem — just find a couple of friends who are willing to do an art time-share with you. But keep in mind that transportation of this particular painting does pose certain challenges.


5. CREATE AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART FROM SCRATCH.

This might take a bit more time, so cancel your afternoon meetings and start poring through the Impressionist & Modern Sale catalogue. Just beneath the sale description, click on “Advanced Search” and you’ll see a filter for “Genres/Stylistic Period.” There are 26 here, ranging from “Abstract” to “Symbolist.” If you’re careful, you should be able to afford one from each.


6. CREATE AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF CONTEMPORARY ART FROM SCRATCH.

Same idea as #5, except you’ll need to go to the Contemporary Art Day Auction. You’ve got 10 styles to choose from here, ranging from “Abstract” to “Pop.”


7. WHAT IF I'M NOT ALL THAT PASSIONATE ABOUT ART?

No problem: $10 million will get you an incredible wine cellar!


8. SHORT ON SPACE? INVEST IN JEWELS!

Diamonds are the most compact way to store your wealth. Also, the most fun.
 


9. THINK OUTSIDE THE (WESTERN) BOX.

Many of the greatest European artists, like Picasso and Gauguin, were deeply influenced by African art, so why not go back to the source? You’re sure to find inspiration and wonder in our sale of Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. I am smitten with this magisterial Fang-Betsi Ancestor figure, which will pair perfectly with this Picasso drawing and Gauguin painting!

(LEFT) FANG-BETSI MALE ANCESTOR STATUE FROM A RELIQUARY ENSEMBLE, GABON Estimate $1,200,000 - $2,000,000.
(ABOVE RIGHT) PAUL GAUGUIN, FEMME CARAÏBE , 1889. Estimate $4,000,000 - $6,000,000. (BELOW LEFT) PABLO PICASSO, BUSTE DE FEMME NUE , 1906. Estimate $700,000 — $1,000,000.

10. GIVE YOUR MONEY TO MUSEUMS.

Most great collectors are also great philanthropists, so this option should definitely be on the table. If you are looking for inspiration, check out the Sotheby’s Museum Network: browse more than 2,000 incredible museums, and then either choose one to send a $10 million check or spread the love over several worthy institutions. This might make you feel so great that you are motivated to write a best-seller every year.

Exhibitions Now on View

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