Work from an art collection amassed by the late Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and his wife, the actress Geneviève Robert, is estimated to pull in more than $60m at auction, led by a Pablo Picasso painting with a $25m-to-$35m estimate.
Reitman worked on films including Ghostbusters, Dave, Kindergarten Cop, Animal House, Space Jam and Old School. He began collecting art after he asked Pace gallery founder Arne Glimcher to help out on the set of Legal Eagles, a 1986 romantic comedy set in New York’s art world. On Glimcher’s recommendation, the film used original works borrowed from galleries and private collections. Through this process, Reitman fell in love with art, Christie’s specialists say. Reitman and Robert collected over four decades and purchased their last piece together in 2021, shortly before Reitman’s death in 2022.
Ten works from the couple’s art collection will be sold during Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November as a dedicated group, led by Picasso’s Femme endormie (1934), a portrait of Picasso’s muse Marie-Thérèse Walter. Reitman and Robert acquired the painting directly from the Picasso Estate, according to Christie’s.
Picasso painted Femme endormie as he was emerging from a dark period of his life, amid marital problems with his first wife, the dancer Olga Khokhlova (who refused to divorce him), the beginnings of the Spanish Civil War and the Great Depression. Reitman and Robert’s Picasso painting is one of three colourful dreamscape portraits the artist completed of Walter on a sunny day in July 1934. The two others are part of the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. The portrait for sale at Christie’s has only been publicly displayed once. Another portrait of Walter by Picasso, from the collection of late Whitney Museum of American Art trustee Emily Fisher Landau, is expected to fetch more than $120m at Sotheby’s New York this season.
The nine other works from the Reitman collection come from a wide range of artists including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Loie Hollowell, Brice Marden, Richard Diebenkorn, Agnes Martin, Joan Snyder and Saul Steinberg. (The Steinberg work made a cameo in Legal Eagles.)
While Reitman and Robert collected a variety of paintings and sculpture, they had a particular taste for abstractionism and “optimism, joy, humour and a real sense of positivity that comes through”, says Johanna Flaum, Christie’s vice chairperson of 20th- and 21st-century art. Abstract Expressionists, coming out of the atrocities of the Second World War, often developed a practice of creating work that was “full of light, brighter and optimistic”, Flaum says. She adds that works that are part of the evening sale, including Untitled III (1984) by de Kooning and Untitled (Red, Orange on Pink) (1968) by Rothko, show those influences.
“You've got these touches of wit and humour that come through the works in the collection,” Flaum says. “Reitman was somebody who really celebrated the magic of life and of creation. When you look at his filmography, these movies are always optimistic and humorous and had some sense of truth and authenticity.”
Additional works from Reitman and Robert’s collection will be sold as part of the November Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sales, as well as future sales, according to Christie’s. The collection will go on display in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Paris and New York before the November auction.