otheby’s is honored to present A Vision: Property from the Collection of Michelle Smith on 22 April 2021 in New York. The extraordinary collection of the late philanthropist features numerous masterpieces of the 20th and 21st Century spanning Design, Fine Art, and Jewelry. Guided by her passion and discerning eye, Michelle Smith amassed a collection that is as elegant, sophisticated, and eclectic as the collector herself with the same commitment to excellence that resonated across every area of her life.
Take a Virtual Tour of the Exhibition
The Vision of Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith was a trailblazing businesswoman, arts patron and philanthropist. The daughter of the late renowned businessman and philanthropist Robert H. Smith and artist Clarice Smith, she became one of the Washington D.C. area’s most respected figures, known for her generous spirit, exacting eye and fierce dedication to championing myriad artistic, cultural and health organizations, as well as educational institutions. Michelle brought to life her passion for art, architecture and design in her stunning penthouse apartment at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, where true to her background in real estate and visionary spirit, she undertook a multi-year development in transforming two separate and raw living spaces into the impeccably appointed home that showcased the breadth of her timeless collection. Read on about the life and legacy of Michelle Smith as told by James Reginato, writer-at-large for Vanity Fair and author of Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats (Rizzoli).
Tour the Penthouse
Michelle Smith’s Georgetown penthouse overlooking the Potomac River is a true masterpiece and jewel that was carefully curated over the years to showcase the beauty of artistry of the space itself and every object within it. Experience the exceptional space in the photographic tour below.
“The environment was sublime. Her home was an installation, in a way. She had a great sense of the tactile, the physical. Everything was beautifully arranged, including the people at her wonderful, intimate dinners. She loved to have ten or twelve people around her table. She thought very carefully about who would be there in terms of the conversation they would have. So, even her dinners were curated.”
Led by outstanding masterpieces by some of the most renowned artists of the past century, the collection brings together works across a number of stylistic periods and regions, from European and American Art Nouveau and Art Deco to Mid-century and Contemporary. Legendary artists and designers represented include François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, Jean-Michel Frank, Louis Majorelle, Pierre Chareau, Eugène Printz, Jean Besnard, Lucie Rie and Tiffany Studios, among others. The result is a spectacular dialogue in materials, genres and artistic practices assembled by a true connoisseur whose collecting philosophy was guided most of all by her affinity for the French modern style.
“She was the dream client and collector. A great collector, like a great gardener, is a person with patience, and she had that,” says Kleinberg. “Her taste was very considered in all things. But while she had very definite ideas, she was also open minded and listened to people’s opinions.”
The collection of Michelle Smith is further distinguished by an important group of Modern, Post War and Cotemporary artworks rooted in sculpture and architecture. Spanning the forefront of artistic production from the last century to today, the Michelle Smith Collection encompasses archetypal tabletop sculptures by Alexander Calder, a totemic figure by Antony Gormley as well as significant examples by Christo and Cerith Wynn Evans. The collection also includes two charming bronze sculptures by Modern British icons Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink.
Michelle Smith’s vision is epitomized in her jewelry collection, telling the story of a woman who, when she decided she liked a certain style or maker, explored and collected in depth. Assembled over the course of decades, the collection features impressive jewels from some of the world’s most lauded and established firms, including Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Bulgari, Suzanne Belperron, and René Boivin, as well as contemporary masters such as Hemmerle and Graff. She collected with purpose and cohesion, zeroing in on iconic designs such as Bulgari “Monete”, Van Cleef & Arpels “Snowflakes” and “Hexagone”, and Boivin “Fishscale.” Her jewelry spoke to her style and grace and serves as a natural extension of the highly curated and refined aesthetic she applied to her collections of Fine Art and Design.
“She always knew straightaway what she wanted, and she had great intuition about how pieces would work together, and always with so much joy. She had a very special eye for curating the perfect collection in every sense. With everything in her life, she developed a perfectionism….the kind of perfectionism you don’t switch on and off. You could see it in every aspect of her life.”
Alongside the live auction, an online sale of jewelry, design, and an impressive ensemble of Hermès handbags will be open for bidding from 16-27 April. We invite you to explore the exciting range of offerings in the Online Sale.