“It’s gotta have heat” was one of the late collector David Teiger’s criteria when buying a work of art. Other benchmarks were “best in type”, “mastery of material” and the question: “will I still love it in 20 years?”.
Now, a new generation of collectors will get the chance to own a piece of Teiger’s collection, which is worth more than $100m and is being offered by Sotheby’s in a series of ten sales over the next eight months. The proceeds will benefit Teiger’s contemporary art foundation—established in 2014 shortly after Teiger died—making it one of the world’s largest in terms of endowment funds.
Joel Wachs, the president of both the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Teiger Foundation, says the collector is blazing a trail by leaving his assets to support artists, curators, museum directors and arts writers.
“So many collectors think that the most important thing to do with their art is open their own museum,” Wachs says. “But David wanted to follow in Andy’s footsteps. Artists have become an enormous source of support for artists and arts organisations across the US. I believe David is setting an incredible example to other collectors.”
Wachs says he and the other board members, the lawyer John Silberman and the curator Gary Garrels, are now prioritising the foundation’s programmes. “Curators will be the first emphasis and writers will be next,” Wachs says.
Before he died, Teiger helped bring to fruition exhibitions that dealt with emotive or thorny topics, or were difficult to fund, such as MoMA PS1’s September 11 show, organised by Peter Eleey, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 2011 same sex marriage show, The Air We Breathe.
“David had a very strong affinity with curators. He felt they played an extraordinary role in appreciating and understanding art, but they often couldn’t put on the kinds of shows they wanted because of a lack of finances,” Wachs says.
The first 27 lots of Teiger’s collection will be sold in London at Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale on 5 October, with a further 31 pieces being offered the following day. The 58 works are estimated in the region of £30m.
The cover lots are two unusually muted Peter Doig paintings, based on photographs the Scottish artist took of Rich Stadium in Buffalo, New York, after a 1997 Rolling Stones concert. They are expected to rack up more than £6m each. An early Mark Grotjahn painting on linen, Untitled (Yellow Butterfly Orange) (2004), is estimated at £3m-£4m.
Other highlights include a zinging green and red glitter painting by Chris Ofili, part of the series that formed the centrepiece of his 2002 pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which is expected to fetch more than £1m.
Teiger, a New Jersey management consultant who served on the drawings committee at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and became an honorary trustee there in 2004, bought his first work from the avant-garde collector and dealer Sidney Janis in 1956–thought to be a work by Philip Guston. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that Teiger began to collect in earnest, becoming a patron for then up-and-coming artists such as Mark Grotjahn, John Currin, Kai Althoff and Glenn Brown.
Teiger’s other major passion was folk art. Assembling a museum-quality collection of Americana in just five years, he was considered to be one of the first to buy folk art as art and not utilitarian object. This portion of his collection, including an assortment of weathervanes and decorative decoy ducks and numbering more than 100 works in total, is due to go under the hammer in New York in January.
Lisa Dennison, the chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, says Teiger lived with most of the objects he bought, pairing the folk art and contemporary pieces in his home in New Jersey. “Those juxtapositions sparked interesting dialogues between the utilitarian art of the everyday man and the aesthetic work of emerging contemporary masters–many of whom he championed as an early and influential patron,” she says.
The rest of Teiger’s collection, consisting of hundreds of works, will go on the block in New York, London and Hong Kong between October and May 2019.