May–July 2024 • London

The Summer Season

T his summer, Sotheby's will bring together three series of sales in London, showcasing the very best of Modern British, Modern and Contemporary Art and Old Masters. The auctions will present a diverse selection of works spanning from antiquity to the 19th century, through to the birth of Modernism in the early 20th century and the evolution of Abstract Expressionism and Contemporary abstraction and figuration. Across our Modern & Contemporary Marquee sales, we are delighted to present works from the esteemed Ralph I. Goldenberg collection; a courageous, curious, and passionate collection that weaves a rich tapestry of 20th Century art. Alongside, we are staging a month-long exhibition, London: An Artistic Crossroads, in partnership with Art UK and twelve museums across the country, shining a spotlight on the UK as a centre of creative cross-pollination. Explore the works, collections, and stories of the season and join us for our in-person exhibitions.

Presented in partnership with


The London Sales

Modern & Contemporary Art Exhibitions

  • Jun18 Jun25

    Exhibition in London

  • Hours

    Monday–Friday| 9:00 AM–5:00 PMSaturday | 12:00 PM–5:00 PMSunday | 1:00 PM–5:00 PMTuesday 25 June | 9:00 AM–12:00 PM

    Location

    34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA

Old Masters

Old Masters Exhibitions

  • Jun28 Jul5

    Exhibition in London

  • Hours

    Monday–Friday| 9:00 AM–4:30 PMSaturday–Sunday | 12:00 PM–4:30 PMWed 3 July | 9:00 AM–12:00 PM

    Location

    34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA

Highlights from Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction
Including the Ralph I. Goldenberg Collection

Highlights from Contemporary Art Day Auction
Including the Ralph I. Goldenberg Collection

T he collection of the late Ralph I. Goldenberg is the culmination of five decades of courageous, curious, and passionate collecting. From the pared-back minimalism of Robert Ryman, to the bold and assertive abstractions of Cy Twombly and Gerhard Richter, and the monumental and the fragile, to the ephemeral and the eternal, the collection weaves a rich tapestry of 20th Century art. Mary Jane Jacob, former Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, was incisive in her own summary of Goldenberg’s collection when she said it “exhibits a different tone of intelligence and knowledge, a studied connoisseurship where a small example can be as articulate and important in quality as a large work” (Mary Jane Jacob quoted in: Judith Neisser, “Beats Playing Doubles,” Art Auction, May 1988, p. 181).

Goldenberg’s outlook echoes the pivotal 1966 exhibition at the Jewish Museum, New York, Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors. Primary Structures was the first American museum exhibition of the movement now known as Minimalism wherein the phenomenology of perception was continuously interrogated. The collection is thus underscored by Goldenberg’s profound regard for the artists' process, whether formal or conceptual in nature. At the heart of the collection lie three flawless paintings by Robert Ryman, a conceptual focal point around which the collection extends. Each work interrogates the very nature of painting and creation. They are treatises on the specificity of media, notions of surface, the occupation of space, and the interplay of light. Ryman’s proclivity for conceptual experimentation through practise as an artist is reflected by Goldenberg’s own experimentation as a collector. He shows us erudite pairings which encourage new narratives that ask us to reconsider established and storied artistic relationships. We need look no further than the works placed in dialogue with Ryman’s masterpieces: the sublime whiteness of Twombly’s By the Ionian Sea, in its refined regard for the prescribed laws of symmetry and geometric harmony, is juxtaposed with Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled, the negative cast of a bookshelf wherein only the spectral marks of books remain visible.

Further relationships are formed between intellectual references to mythological subjects or to artefacts of the ancient past, both within the characteristic scrawled handwriting and vivid ferocity of Twombly’s Untitled (Formian Dreams + Actuality) and Brice Marden’s gestural drawings of Hydra and St Barts. The collection exudes personality, from encounters with a delicate zoomorphic Alexander Calder stabile, to Jannis Kounellis’ delicate 1962 painting, and Manzoni’s intimate 1959 Achrome measuring just 10 cm, Goldenberg was “very fond of small works, they are just wonderful to have around. They’re joyous in a very special way” (Ralph I. Goldenberg quoted in: Ibid, p. 182). From a studious collection of drawings by the likes of Jean Dubuffet, Balthus and de Kooning, to the thought-provoking and quietly subversive works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, each work within the collection demands reflection. New York dealer and long-time friend of Goldenberg, Vivian Horan aptly noted that in collecting he went “for the jewels rather than the crown” (Vivian Horan quoted in: Ibid, p. 181).

“I am very fond of small works. They’re just wonderful to have around. They’re joyous in a very special way. Small statements are different. So are drawings. They don’t approach you; you must approach them. There’s something private between you and the work, a sense of engagement.”
Ralph I. Goldenberg quoted in: Judith Neisser, “Beats Playing Doubles,” Art Auction, May 1988, p. 182

Brimming with poetic accents and the collector’s aesthetic sensibility, the collection of Ralph I. Goldenberg celebrates his limitless intellectual curiosity, encompassing over 80 artworks that champion interconnectedness, materiality, and freedom, and which defies tight classification. Testament to the importance of the works within the collection – and how the collector’s vision was underscored by a clear and astutely educated eye – are the myriad personal letters from prominent international curators, from Nicholas Serota to Ralph Rugoff, requesting works within the collection to be loaned for landmark exhibitions worldwide. The stellar exhibition history of several of the works within the collection, and the fact that several directly comparable works are included within the permanent collections of some of the most prominent museums globally, further reinforces this integrity and underlines the exceptional collecting vision of Ralph I. Goldenberg.

Led by 16 works presented in the Modern & Contemporary Evening Sale and 62 in Contemporary Day Auction in London during our Marquee Week – Sotheby’s is honoured to present The Ralph I. Goldenberg Collection across two dynamic auctions this summer in London.

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Auction Calendar

I n celebration of London’s role in the artistic journeys of so many, London: An Artistic Crossroads, Sotheby’s and Art UK brings together a dozen masterpieces from regional museums by international artists connected to and influenced by the city, highlighting the treasures held across the country while unveiling new narratives. Inspired by the National Gallery’s Bicentenary celebrations in which they have loaned 12 works to remarkable masterpieces from its own collection to institutions throughout the country, this exhibition does the reverse: collecting 12 extraordinary works of art from major regional collections, bringing them together, in one room, in the capital city, as an homage to London and to all those who have come from elsewhere to be inspired, create and flourish.

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