The Collection of Alfred Taubman at Sothebys

One of the best ways to see fantastic art is to go to the big auction houses.  There are a few things that make it fun.  To see what one person or family has collected is usually shown in one fell swoop.  The other highlight is that each piece has the name of the artist and the estimated price that they believe the piece will go for at auction.  Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t but I have always found it frustrating to go to a gallery and have zero idea what the price of the art is.

Fred and I went up to Sotheby’s on Saturday to check out the collection of Alfred Taubman that is up for auction.  He collected what he liked and what he could afford.  He could afford a lot.  The collection runs the gamut from Picasso to Rothko.  Taubman began his career as a real estate developer who went on to build real estate malls across the country.  That made him a billionaire.  He bought Sotheby’s in 1983 and took the company public in 1988.  In the early 2000’s there was a price-fixing scandal between Christie’s and Sotheby’s that led to Taubman spending 10 months in jail and paying $7.5 million in fines.  His CEO, Diana Brooks implicated him to stay out of prison.  He was released in 2003 and has always insisted that he was innocent.  Taubman died in 2015.  He was a big philanthropist and loved the arts.

lichensteinThe show is up for a few days before it goes to auction.  Here are the few highlights for me.  This Lichtenstein piece is right when you walk in and it is estimated to go between $5-7m.

miroThere is also this Joan Miro right next to it.  Really unique piece.  Estimate 15-20m.


rothkoRothko, estimated between 20-30m.  Love this!

modgilianaThis is the piece of the show by Modigliani.  There is not a price on this piece  You have to ask and based on all the other prices at this show it will be wild to see what this goes for.  It is beautiful.

mooreHenry Moore sculpture.

sargeantJohn Singer Sargent, 800k-1.2M.  It is interesting to see the old school masters prices go for less than the new modern artists.

bertoiaI loved this piece from Harry Bertoia, $250-350m.

egonEgon Schiele, $1.8 – 2.5m.  I have always been a fan but after seeing such a large amount of his work this summer in Vienna at the Leopold Museum I am a bigger fan.

jimdineJim Dine $150-200K.  He is still creating art.

legerFernand Leger, $1.2-1.8m

dekoonigThis Wilem de Koonig might have been my favorite piece in his collection $25-35m.

1baconThere were two Francis Bacon’s and I liked this one more.  $4-6m.

wineAfterward we made our way downstairs and took a walk through the wine store.  An incredible store worth checking out too.  Great presentation and incredibly knowledgeable people.  They also have auctions!

What I find interesting about the whole collection is this was owned by one man.  He collected what he loved.  After the works are sold this collection will never be together again.  My guess is that there is more to this collection and some of the pieces that were absolutely loved by the family were kept for themselves.  For whatever reason the family did not want to keep everything but has chosen to put the art work up for auction.  Sotheby’s has guaranteed the Taubman family at least $500m in proceeds from this auction.  That money will go back into the family and used for something else perhaps real estate investments, other art or whatever.  It is just an end of era in one generation of a very wealthy family as they move the assets of their patriarch into cash allowing others to enjoy those pieces of art on their walls in other peoples homes or museums across the globe.  It is really a bit of history.