A selection of 20th century paintings from the collection of a late Chicago couple who collected art throughout the duration of their more than five-decade marriage is expected to fetch more than $50m at Christie’s New York during the auction house’s May sales.
Chicago commodities trader Alan and his wife Dorothy Press first began collecting German Expressionist art shortly after they were married in 1970, likely influenced by Alan’s time stationed at an army base in Germany during the 1950s, according to Christie’s. The Presses’ collection became one of the leading US troves of German Expressionist art, but they decided to sell the entire collection in the mid-1980s to focus on acquiring more recent Modern and contemporary art. Pieces from their collection headed to Christie’s in May include works by Ed Ruscha, Philip Guston, Ken Price, Henri Matisse and Man Ray, Christie’s said, which will be offered across multiple evening and day sales
The marquee work from the Press collection is Ruscha’s Burning Standard (1968), which Christie’s said is only the second painting from Ruscha’s well-known Stations series to ever come to auction. Burning Standard is estimated to fetch between $20m and $30m at a May evening sale where two more of the artist’s paintings will be up for sale: Do You Think She Has It (1974) and Business #1 (1966), which are estimated to sell for as much as $2m and $350,000, respectively. Eight additional Ruscha paintings will be up for sale during Christie’s day sales. This year, Ruscha will be the subject of a travelling retrospective making stops at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Christie's set Ruscha's current auction record in November 2019, when it sold his 1964 painting Hurting the Word Radio #2 for $46m ($52.4m with fees).
The evening sale will also include three paintings by Guston that have not been publicly displayed in decades. Chair (1976) was last seen in public in 1991 for a MoMA exhibition, and is expected to sell for as much as $18m. Guston’s Pull (1979) and Bricks (1970) are similarly fresh to market, Christie’s said, and both estimated to fetch between $6m and $8m. A major Guston retrospective opened last year in Boston after it was postponed several times, first because of the Covid-19 pandemic and then duethe artist’s use of Ku Klux Klan imagery; it is currently on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (until 27 August).
Dorothy died in January and Alan died in 2021. The couple’s holdings join forthcoming sales of several other high-profile private collections at Christie’s in May, including works acquired by Gerald Fineberg, a late trustee of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; art from the estate of late publishing billionaire S.I. Newhouse; and additional paintings that belonged to late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the bulk of which sold for $1.6b last year to become the most valuable art collection ever auctioned.