Art market

'A collector in dealer's clothes': Sotheby's to sell the collection of Richard L. Feigen

The sale of the New York dealer, who died earlier this year and was once a vocal critic of auction houses, will feature works from the 14th to 20th centuries

Boninton's The Palazzo Monolesso-Ferro, Palazzo Contarini-Fasan, and Palazzo Contarini Courtesy of Sotheby's

Sotheby’s has today announced the sale of 55 works from the collection of the late art dealer and collector Richard L. Feigen. The single owner sale will take place on 18 October in New York and feature a wealth of work from Feigen’s personal collection, from the 13th century to the 20th century. Feigen, who referred to himself as a “collector in dealer’s clothes” was particularly attracted to Italian art from the 13th century to the Baroque, the English and French Romantic painters and German Expressionists—examples of all will be included in the sale.

Sale highlights include eight pictures by the British Romantic artist Richard Parkes Bonington, one of the many artists Feigen thought to be “undervalued or underappreciated”, Sotheby's says. Two of the eight are richly detailed plein air landscape sketches painted during the artist’s trip to Italy in 1826 with his patron Baron Charles Rivet. Both The Palazzo Monolesso-Ferro, Palazzo Contarini-Fasan, and Palazzo Contarini, (estimate $2m-$3m), which was painted in Venice, and View of Lerici, (estimate $1m-$1.5m) are fine examples of what drew Feigen to Bonington’s work, the artist’s skill at capturing the delicate nature of light.

Max Beckmann's Grosser Steinbruch in Oberbayern (Large Quarry in Upper Bavaria Courtesy of Sotheby's

Throughout his career Feigen championed artists who he felt had not yet received the recognition they deserved and helped cement the reputations of Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet and Jasper Johns, but there were few for whom he fought as strongly or successfully as Max Beckmann. One of Beckmann’s most powerful abstract works, Grosser Steinbruch in Oberbayern (Large Quarry in Upper Bavaria, estimate $1.8m-$2.5m) will be included in the sale, as will the 1926 portrait Bildnis enies Türken (Portrait of a Turk, estimate $2m-$3m). The sale will be rounded out by a number of the early Italian works from Feigen’s collections including the painter Domenico Beccafumi’s The Adoration of the Christ Child (estimate $300,000-$500,000).

Feigen was known for his no-nonsense advice, urging people to buy the best they could afford because "Shit never costs that much less." And in 2009, he told an interviewer for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art: “Well, I don’t want to be arrogant, I have a very good eye. I have very, very good taste."

And although his collection will now be sold by Sotheby's, in his day Feigen was a vocal critic of auction houses. In this opinion piece for The Art Newspaper in 2007, Feigen talked of the bursting of the bubble in the art market, writing: “The auction houses won’t care because they have no ongoing responsibility to their clients, and there will be an endless supply of ... the newly trendy, that they can help promote to feed these insatiable monsters.”

Domenico Beccafumi’s The Adoration of the Christ Child Courtesy of Sotheby's

“In the scope of his interest, insight and impact, few American art dealers were as influential as Richard L. Feigen,” says Christopher Apostle, the head of Old Master paintings at Sotheby’s in New York. “His taste not only shaped the numerous collects with whom he worked, but also the global network of institution to which he sold the many masterpieces that passed through his hands.”

The sale's highlights will be on view in London from 17 to 23 September.