A s prominent collectors and philanthropists in Philadelphia, Gabriele and Robert Lee built an unparalleled collection of art and design that took center stage in their Society Hill home. From the iconic imagery of Philip Guston and Alighiero Boetti to the exceptional examples of 20th Century Design by Paul Evans and Tiffany Studios, the Lee Collection is the thoughtful embodiment of Mr. Lee’s passion for collecting and Mrs. Lee’s impeccable style, informed by her experience as an interior designer and architect. The couple’s aesthetic eye for quality extended to their philanthropic endeavors: their unwavering support of the Philadelphia Opera, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts has left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of the city they loved. Sotheby’s is thrilled to offer 6 works from the Estate of Gabriele and Robert Lee.
The Collection is led by Philip Guston’s Ominous Land. A star lot of the Contemporary Evening Auction, Ominous Land is an exceptional, large-scale piece, from the artist’s highly-regarded late body of work, treating one of his most powerful motifs. The hooded figures, hinting to the violence and civil strife of ‘60s America, fuse politically charged imagery and satirical self-portraiture, creating a powerful social commentary that remains just as relevant and meaningful nearly 50 years later. This work is particularly noteworthy for the fact that it is one of the last works in which the artist incorporated the critical iconography of the hooded figure. A testament to the Lees’ prescient eye, the painting was purchased directly from David McKee Gallery, where it was lauded by critic Roberta Smith in Art Forum. Soon after, in 1980, it was included in the landmark retrospective of Guston’s work. Its appearance at auction now is timely, coming as it does some six months before the opening of Guston’s long-awaited retrospective. No hooded figure painting of this quality by the artist has ever come to auction.