Meeting New Art Halfway: The Collection of Anita Reiner

Spring 2021 | New York
Sotheby’s is delighted to present Meeting New Art Halfway: The Collection of Anita Reiner, a selection of works offered across five sales this spring. Drawn to the art of her time, Anita Reiner combined insatiable curiosity, unique taste, and an adventurous spirit to build a formidable collection spanning categories and subjects, media and themes. Her passion, intellect, and sense of humor led to long-lasting friendships with such esteemed gallerists as Leo Castelli, Annina Nosei, Arne Glimcher, Jack Shainman, Mary Boone, and many others. This selection represents a unique opportunity to acquire works of exceptional provenance, many of which are fresh to market.

Learn More about The Collection of Anita Reiner

E ssential to her open-minded philosophy of collecting was a sage piece of advice once given to her during a serendipitous encounter at The Phillips Collection. In the early years of her quest to learn about modern art, a young Reiner visited the newly installed paintings by Mark Rothko; to an elderly gentleman’s inquiry about her response to the work, she replied indifferently. The stranger, whom she later learned was the museum’s founder and renowned critic Duncan Phillips, countered, “Young lady, you always have to meet new art halfway.” For nearly forty years, Reiner kept this sage advice, and built an exceptional collection, centered on emerging artists, that evolved as her tastes and interests expanded. A testament to her dedication, the present selection documents Reiner’s place in the history of contemporary art and its patronage.

Meeting New Art Halfway underscores Reiner’s wide-ranging curiosity, encompassing a variety of significant themes. Bespeaking Reiner’s interest in a breadth of subjects, media, and artistic voices, works from the selection will be offered in context across a series of spring sales. For instance, her attention to the position of female artists is reflected in several highlights of Thinking in Four Dimensions: Leading Women Sculptors, 8 March 2021, including Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Small Figure in Iron House. Works that speak to Reiner’s extensive travels to India, Burma, and China, including Between Known and Unknown by Vibha Galhotra, will be offered in Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, 16 March 2021. Photographs, 29 March – 7 April 2021, will feature multiple lots by such celebrated artists as Diane Arbus, Gabriel Orozco, Lucas Samaras, and Wolfgang Tillmans. And, anchoring the selection will be twenty-three works by international sculptors demonstrating an interest in material and process, featured in Contemporary Art, 5-18 March 2021, including the remarkable installation piece Le Silence Sonore by Chinese artist Chen Zhen, as well as a wide variety of chairs.

The multitude of chairs in the collection, such as Bharti Kher’s Another Strange Encounter, illuminates Reiner’s interest in works that recontextualize seemingly trivial objects and materials, and offer deeper meaning about social and cultural power dynamics. As Cristin Tierney, advisor to the Reiner Estate, explains: “As a matriarch, Anita was fascinated by all things at the intersection of art and domesticity. Many of the works in her collection blur the boundaries between quotidian domestic objects and traditional Fine Art. Chairs, which are quintessentially domestic, appear throughout her collection in many different forms. As an avid lover of art from around the globe and the head of her household, the chair carried so many connotations that spoke directly to Anita. She was particularly drawn to the poetic notion that chairs represent absence and presence simultaneously. She loved the idea that everyone, regardless of race, gender, nationality, etc. could appreciate and recognize the chair form and have a personal relationship to it.” Alongside other sculptural works in nontraditional media, like Pascale Marthine Tayou’s Poupées Pascale or Chinese Wings by Rebecca Horn, the chairs represent an integral part of Reiner’s unique and radical collection, foregrounding the voices of outsiders, experimenters, and boundary-breakers – artists who, like Reiner herself, were not afraid to meet what’s new halfway.

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