The collection of Idamae B. and James H. Rich is imbued with an adventurous spirit and intuitive discernment befitting of its collectors. The Riches always pursued an independent course of collecting that did not follow fashions or trends but rather remained true to their instincts, with some thoughtful research and trusted advice along the way. Confident bidders in New York and London auction rooms, the Riches were equally as generous in sharing their love of art and their collection with their community. Their interest in Contemporary art dated from their attendance at the first Carnegie International in the post-war years, and the Riches were devoted and enduring supporters of the Carnegie Museum and other philanthropic interests in the arts and education. Idamae earned her B.A. in Art History at the University of Pittsburgh and was a member of the Women’s Committee at the Carnegie. James was an Honorary Member of the Carnegie Museum of Art Board, and they both welcomed tours of their collection organized by the Museum. Together they donated acquisition funds, as well as the brilliant Delaware Crossing by Frank Stella, to the Museum. The Riches demonstrated a wonderful receptivity and openness to artists who were not conformists and who embodied the boldness of late twentieth-century art. Each artist in the collection defied traditional norms – whether in genres or the materials and processes used – and the Riches matched the artists’ adventurous spirit with their choice of acquisitions. Sotheby’s is delighted to be presenting highlights from this distinguished collection across our June Evening and Day Sales, with a further selection in New York in September.
The greatest sculptural highlight of the Riches’ collection is by the American pioneer of the 1960s Donald Judd, who introduced industrial metals and pigment processes into a minimalist oeuvre that nonetheless evinced a magical sense of colour. This will be offered in our Evening Sale alongside a vibrant 2005 painting by Albert Oehlen that exhibits the influence of Sigmar Polke and other German painters who all focus on the process and material of art, while also maintaining a porous boundary between figuration and abstraction.
The Riches shared a devotion to Pittsburgh's native son, Andy Warhol, who elevated silkscreening to the highest realms of fine art. Warhol’s avant-garde influence was felt worldwide, not least among the German painters in the Rich Collection, and his Self Portrait is amongst the notable selection of works to be offered in the London Day sale. In addition are two hallmark works by Wilhelm Sasnal, a dazzling painting by Peter Halley, a chromatically diverse gouache by Sol LeWitt, and a painting by the ultimate iconoclast Sigmar Polke, whose liberal use of diverse and experimental pigments and printing methods earnt him the sobriquet of “the alchemist” as he created his own unique and eccentric style.
Luscious colour is a spectacular aspect of this collection. The Riches’ eye seemed to gravitate to bright, vibrant palettes, none more so than the painting by Oehlen with its glorious hues and Neo-Expressionist aesthetic. In summary, the dynamism of the collection is a profound reflection of a marvellous and intrepid couple who have enjoyed assembling and living with art. It is an honour to present this collection to the art collecting community as a tribute to them.
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