8 & 9 November 2023 | New York

Emily Fisher Landau in front of Fernand Leger's Etude pour Les Constructeurs (Study for Les Constructeurs), 1951. © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris CHESTER HIGGINS JR./CHESTER HIGGINS JR./The New York Times/Redux

Over the course of the last century, a small number of individuals have played a vital role in shaping the unfolding story of 20th-century art. Emily Fisher Landau was a key member of this group: her deep and longstanding involvement with leading institutions, in particular the Whitney Museum of American Art; her profound engagement with the art and artists of her time; and her unerring instinct as a collector at the highest level, all combining in one of the greatest collectors and patrons of ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. The result of decades of inquiry and curiosity, the Emily Fisher Landau Collection is synonymous with connoisseurship and quality, and also speaks to Mrs. Fisher Landau’s voracious and instinctive approach to collecting. From Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Fernand Léger, through to Ed Ruscha and Jasper Johns, alongside Mark Tansey and Glenn Ligon, the Collection traces the greatest achievements of 20th-century art, in each case through key masterpiece examples.


Twentieth Century Art in Twenty Unforgettable Works

Emily Fisher Landau was, simply put, one of the greatest collectors and patrons of the twentieth century. Her legacy is set apart for her deep and longstanding involvement with leading institutions, in particular the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as her profound engagement with the art and artists of her time and her unerring instinct as a collector at the highest level. Fisher Landau assembled one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art – 120 works of which are coming to auction at Sotheby’s on 8–9 November.

Join us over the next 20 days leading up to the Emily Fisher Landau Evening Auction on 8 November as our specialists spotlight 20 key works from the Collection, celebrating their impact on twentieth-century art.

  • #20 | Jasper Johns’ ‘Flags’
  • #19 | Glenn Ligon’s ‘Untitled (I Lost My Voice I Found My Voice)’
  • #18 | Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip)’
  • #17 | Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition (unfinished)’
  • #16 | Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’
  • #15 | Mark Tansey’s ‘Installing the Lens’
  • #14 | Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme à la montre’
  • #13 | Jean Arp’s ‘Torse végétal’
  • #12 | Alexander Calder’s ‘Red Comber’
  • #11 | Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Gambade à la rose’
  • #10 | Andy Warhol’s ‘Self-Portrait’
  • #9 | Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Sundog’
  • #8 | Agnes Martin’s ‘Grey Stone II’
  • #7 | Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’
  • #6 | Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XV’
  • #5 | Mark Rothko’s ‘Untitled’
  • #4 | Mark Tansey’s ‘Triumph Over Mastery II’
  • #3 | Ed Ruscha’s ‘Plenty Big Hotel Room (Painting for the American Indian)’
  • #2 | Cy Twombly’s ‘Untitled’
  • #1 | Andy Warhol’s ‘Emily Fisher Landau’
  • Jasper Johns’ ‘Flags’
    Jasper Johns’ Flags is a landmark work in the artist’s brilliant investigations of familiar images. In Flags, Johns seeks to unravel deeper, hidden meaning within American iconography, reshaping the way that people view art in the process. Johns’ signature brand of reinvention raises challenging new questions about American culture and our own perceptions of it. This now iconic image, is one of many masterpieces being offered from the Emily Fisher Landau's Collection on 8 November 2023.

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  • Glenn Ligon’s ‘Untitled (I Lost My Voice I Found My Voice)’
    Densely layered and nearly illegible, an untitled work from Glenn Ligon’s Door Paintings explores the complexities of racial visibility and stands as a fervent monument to the Black American experience.

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  • Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip)’
    From 1918 to 1932, O’Keeffe executed more than 200 floral subjects, captivated by the visual potential and beauty of natural forms. As she essentializes, crops and enlarges the blossom in Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip) from 1925, O’Keeffe leaves the realm of pure objectivity and instead presents its essence, compelling her viewer to experience the natural world in a new and more profound way.

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  • Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition (unfinished)’
    Completed during a brief respite in London, an unfinished work from Mondrian’s Composition series reveals the nascent energy that’s later realized in his greatest New York paintings.

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  • Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’
    Merging Pop Art, Conceptualism and a distinct West Coast sensibility with an elemental graphic force, Ruscha’s Text paintings of the 1960s transformed ordinary language into arresting visual statements that launched the artist into the innovative forefront of American contemporary art.

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  • Mark Tansey’s ‘Installing the Lens’
    Depicting workers deep in a cave cast in cerulean blue, Tansey’s painting investigates ancient philosophies of sight after the Pictures Generation cast doubt on representing reality.

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  • Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme à la montre’
    Executed in 1932 at the pinnacle of Picasso’s impassioned affair, Femme à la montre exists as one of the most resolved and complex depictions from this highly charged year. In this video Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of Global Fine Arts, Simon Shaw, walks through the painting’s beautiful vibrant pigments, Picasso’s history and more.

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  • Jean Arp’s ‘Torse végétal’
    Precious, primordial and otherworldly, Arp’s mature bronzes evoke an enigmatic, organic force pulsing at the center of all matter.

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  • Alexander Calder’s ‘Red Comber’
    In Red Comber, Alexander Calder balances a brass arc precisely on the tip of a triangular scarlet base, with one end tightly coiled into itself and the other supporting a network of seven circular disks. It’s this elegant equilibrium between weight and counterweight that mark Calder’s most exploratory, daring stabiles and mobiles.

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  • Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Gambade à la rose’
    A seminal work of Art Brut, Dubuffet’s Gambade à la rose challenges idealized standards of feminine beauty.

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  • Andy Warhol’s ‘Self-Portrait’
    One of the final self-portraits that Andy Warhol would create before his untimely death the following year, the work endures as his last grand artistic gesture and embodies the artist’s ultimate meditation on mortality, identity, and image: Warhol, who dedicated his career to exploring the construction of identity and the power of media, now turns to face his own mortality.

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  • Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Sundog’
    Incorporating newsmedia, advertisements and gestural painting, Rauschenberg’s Sundog speaks to humankind’s plight and the awesome power of the space age.

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  • Agnes Martin’s ‘Grey Stone II’
    An exceptionally rare and exquisitely rendered example from Agnes Martin’s early career, Grey Stone II elegantly encapsulates the sublime expressiveness within minimal means that has come to define the artist’s unique brand of mark-making.

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  • Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’
    A superlative example from Albers’ most significant body of work, ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’ was one of the earliest works to enter Emily Fisher Landau’s inimitable collection.

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  • Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XV’
    In 1981, Willem de Kooning began working on hauntingly poetic abstractions that consumed his practice for the remainder of his life, and nowhere is his genius as a colorist and draftsman more apparent.

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  • Mark Rothko’s ‘Untitled’
    An untitled work from Rothko’s “Seagram Murals” series exemplifies the spiritual, even divine, quality that is a hallmark of his mature paintings.

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  • Mark Tansey’s ‘Triumph Over Mastery II’
    In this captivating painting, Mark Tansey emerges as a larger-than-life figure, engulfing viewers and imparting a sense of smallness. His masterful balance between honoring art history and challenging tradition is striking. The artwork portrays Tansey confronting Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, representing the contemporary painter’s struggle to respect the past while forging new paths.

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  • Ed Ruscha’s ‘Plenty Big Hotel Room (Painting for the American Indian)’
    Subtitled “Painting for the American Indian,” Ruscha’s depiction of a US flag untethered from a flag pole and surrounded by black censor strips comments on the dispossession of Indigenous people.

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  • Cy Twombly’s ‘Untitled’
    At once gracefully executed and dramatically scaled, Cy Twombly’s Untitled is a captivating exemplar of the artist’s renowned Blackboard paintings. Executed in 1968, the present work is amongst the most gesturally expressive invocations of the urgent, interrogatory mark-marking which distinguishes the very best examples of this celebrated series.

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  • Andy Warhol’s ‘Emily Fisher Landau’
    The collector’s daughter Candia Fisher and Sotheby’s Chairman Lisa Dennison speak about Warhol’s depictions of the legendary patron, which bridge the artist’s commissioned portraits and his preoccupation with art-world celebrities.

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The Collection not only tells the story of 20th-century art, but also tells the story of Emily Fisher Landau herself. Mrs. Fisher Landau’s collecting journey began in the late 1960s with the purchase of a striking Alexander Calder mobile and with a chance encounter with a poster advertising a forthcoming Josef Albers show at Pace Gallery, from which three major acquisitions followed. Mrs. Fisher Landau began to put together a major ensemble of works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Paul Klee and Louise Nevelson among others. All were complemented, in later years, by the work of artists she came to know and patronize directly, many of whom she collected in depth. Few collectors have been as committed to building relationships with artists as she: from post-war titans such as Ed Ruscha and Jasper Johns to artists at the vanguard in the 21st century, such as Glenn Ligon and Mark Tansey, Emily Fisher Landau’s steadfast support as a patron and friend helped forge a transformative new path for each one.

"If a person is a true collector, nothing will stand in their way to get what they want."
–Emily Fisher Landau

PABLO PICASSO, Femme à la montre

Mrs. Fisher Landau’s adventurous spirit and total commitment to the art and artists of her time aligned seamlessly with the ethos of the increasingly influential Whitney Museum, a fierce champion of cutting-edge American artists, whose work it showcased in its striking Breuer building on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Beginning in the mid-1980s, and over the course of the next four decades, Mrs. Fisher Landau was deeply involved with the Whitney in so many ways: a member of the acquisition committees, she also endowed the Museum’s famous Whitney Biennial exhibitions and in 2010 made a landmark donation of nearly 400 works, which was subsequently exhibited under the title “Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection”. The fourth floor of the Breuer building remains named in her honor.

Left: Emily Fisher Landau and Ed Ruscha at his studio in Venice Beach, CA in 1985. Image courtesy Emily Fisher Landau Center for Arts
Right: Emily Fisher Landau and Jasper Johns at the Whitney Museum for her 90th birthday celebration in 2010. Photo: Nick Hunt/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Sotheby’s is honored to present the Emily Fisher Landau Collection to be sold across dedicated evening and day sales in New York this November, marking a historic auction event.

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Exhibition Information

Exhibition Information

The Emily Fisher Landau Collection: An Era Defined will be on view in New York beginning at 1:00PM on 1 November until 1:00PM on 8 November.

Monday–Saturday | 10:00 AM–5:00 PM
Sunday | 1:00–5:00 PM

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