THE HISTORY OF NOW: THE COLLECTION OF DAVID TEIGER SOLD TO BENEFIT TEIGER FOUNDATION FOR THE SUPPORT OF CONTEMPORARY ART
The criteria by which Teiger collected were remarkably consistent, and were summed up in a quote he gave to The New York Times in 1998, when he ﬁrst began acquiring Contemporary artworks. He said: “I’m looking to be inspired, motivated, titillated by art. I want to be surrounded by objects that give me positive energy… Of course I want ﬁrst rate pieces. I look for authenticity, integrity, original natural surface and a strong sense of color and texture. But the most important thing is that I react in my gut” (David Teiger, quoted in: The New York Times, October 30, 1998). Years later the terminology changed but the requirements remained the same; for all his meticulous research and careful consideration of every purchase, Teiger still required that an item “have heat”, an intrinsic quality that would combine with other criteria such as “best of type”, “great craft” and “powerful presence” to qualify a work for admission to Teiger’s collection.
Amassed over the course of twenty years, the David Teiger Collection is wide ranging in its scope, comprising a spectacular array of contemporary artworks, from paintings and works on paper to photographs and prints, and one of the greatest collections of American Folk Art in private hands. Famously exacting, each purchase would necessitate an extraordinary depth of research, often including multiple studio visits. As he remarked in an interview with his friend Alanna Heiss, the then director of MoMA PS1, in 2005, “you can never get enough information”, while friends and those who worked with him spoke of his relentless pursuit of perfection.
The result of this exacting approach was that Teiger developed a remarkably discerning and prescient eye, leading him to patronize a number of hugely inﬂuential contemporary artists at the start of their careers, including Mark Grotjahn, Kai Althoff, Chris Oﬁli and Glenn Brown. This patronage would have been hugely important to them, not only ﬁnancially, but in terms of the conﬁdence it would have given them to know that their work was going to a very astute collector. As Alanna Heiss put it to Teiger himself, “you are very respected and loved by artists… [they] love to know that they are in your collection”.
This is not to say however that Teiger’s collecting was conﬁned to identifying artistic frontrunners. He was a great believer in the potential for the rediscovery of an artist. The depth and quality of his collection of works by John Wesley for instance, an artist who started his career alongside Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist without ever receiving the same degree of acclaim that his peers enjoyed, speaks to Teiger’s belief in the underlying quality of the artist, despite his comparative critical and commercial anonymity.
Another deﬁnitive aspect of Teiger’s life was the enormous generosity towards institutions. Museums were privileged to know that they could always ask to borrow pieces from the collection, and donations were consistently made to acquisition funds and curatorial initiatives, most notably to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Teiger was an honorary trustee, but also the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.
This preoccupation with artistic institutions was in large part owing to the immense respect that Teiger had for curators, to whom he attributed the power to narrate and determine the story of an artist or movement. He saw it as his duty to ensure that they had all the tools necessary to realize their aims. For instance, he was a key supporter of MoMA’s ambitious survey exhibition in 2002, Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, which stalled at a pivotal moment following the attacks on New York in September 2001. Funding had dried up and the exhibition was on the rocks until Teiger stepped in and provided funding not only for the exhibition but for an accompanying catalogue, which was the ﬁrst drawing catalogue produced by the museum to go into multiple printings. Duly, this is now a principle objective of the Teiger Foundation, which will be the recipient of all funds generated by the sale of the collection, is to continue Teiger’s initiatives in this direction.
The works in the March Contemporary Curated auction showcase David Teiger's exemplary taste and prescience. Many of these works were acquired the year of or soon after the date of execution, further underscoring the collection’s pristine provenance. David Teiger demonstrated a keen interest in figuration, exemplified by many of the works in this selection, including Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait Julian, and the more expressionistic renderings of Kai Althoff and Chris Ofili. At the same time, the collection covers a swath of abstract works by contemporary masters, including Kenneth Noland and John Wesley. Taken as a whole, this is a collection that encapsulates the History of Now, and serves as a testament to the immense foresight and bravery of David Teiger’s vision. Deﬁned not only by their art historical importance but their bold use of color and extraordinary power, the group of works presented here constitute the best of type, and epitomize what Gary Garrels so accurately describes as Teiger’s connoisseurship of the new.
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