Not since Oasis has a break up felt this protracted.
Today in a livestreamed walkthrough, Sotheby's announced half of the next 30 works from the much vaunted collection of the acrimoniously divorced Linda and Harry Macklowe that will come up for auction. The second of two court-ordered sales will take place on 16 May in New York.
The first sale in November brought in a collosal $676.1m (with fees), against a pre-sale estimate of $439.4m to $618.9m (pre-sale estimates are calculated without fees)—the highest ever total in Sotheby's history. Records were set for Agnes Martin, Jackson Pollock, Robert Irwin and Michael Heizer.
Thus far only 16 of the 30 works have been revealed, with the last 14 to be unveiled at a later date in New York, nearer the sale: a marketing ploy to keep buzz around the collection at fever pitch.
Highlights from part two, which are on display in the auction house's London galleries until 2 March (before touring to Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai) were introduced during a virtual tour by the Barbican's artistic director Will Gompertz and curator Eleanor Nairne. The works carry a total pre-sale estimate of "in the region of $200m", meaning total sale records are unlikely to be broken. All works are guaranteed—unsurprising considering how ferociously Sotheby's had to fight off Christie's to secure the collection—although the auction house has declined to reveal the percentage of which are in-house versus third party.
The most valuable work revealed today is a Rothko painting in blue and burgundy from 1960, valued between $35m to $50m. However, it is unlikely to beat the more luminous Rothko that led the first sale, which made $82.4m against an estimate of $70m to $90m.
Likewise, part one's other star lot, Le Nez, a Giacometti also estimated between $70m to $90m, will unlikely be matched by its parallel in part two: Diego sur stèle II (1958), which depicts the artists's brother Diego, and is estimated at $7m-10m.
Painted within a year of the Rothko, a 1961 abstracted landscape by De Kooning will be offered at $7m-$10m.
All but one of the artists announced today have been featured in part one of the sale. They include Gerhard Richter, whose 1975 Seascape carries a $25m to $35m estimate, and Andy Warhol. One of the Pop Art king's final self portraits from 1986—part of his Fright Wig series, exhibited just once at a 1995 London exhibition organised by Antony D'Offay—will be offered for $15m to $20m.
The only outlier is Jean Dubuffet, whose Grand Nu Charbonneux—the first large-scale nude he ever painted—carries an estimate of $4m to $6m. Purchased from Pace Gallery in 2003, this is the only Dubuffet in the Macklowe collection.
Other repeating names include Robert Ryman, whose seven-foot-high Swift (2002) carries an $8m to $12m estimate; a 1986 sculpture by Jeff Koons of three vaccum cleaners in a vitrine (est $3.5m to $4.5m); and a 1958 bronze Picasso sculpture of a young man—one of two casts of this subject (est $1m-$1.5m)
Two works by Sigmar Polke, Plastik-Wannen (Plastic Tubs) (1964, est $3.5m-$4.5m) and The Copyist, (1982, est $3m-4m), will also come to the block in May.
Throughout the tour, praise was heaped on the Macklowe's collection, one formed by classic, expensive taste, with Nairne describing it as "one of the greatest collections of post-war art in America". Nonetheless, by today's trends these works arguably feel stale, with a number of the artists, such as Richter and Warhol, seeing their previously white hot markets plateau in recent years.
Why two institutional curators, rather than auction house specialists, were chosen to lead the tour is not clear, though a Sotheby's spokesperson says: "We have known and admired them both for years and felt that, given the importance of the works in the collection, this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to ask them to share their knowledge about these artists with the broader public."
Recent exhibitions organised by Nairne at the Barbican include a major Lee Krasner restrospective credited with bringing the long-maligned Abstract Expressionist into the spotlight, and Basquiat: Boom for Real. Gompertz joined the Barbican last year after a decade as arts editor at the BBC.