Christie’s to sell art from Robert Shapazian estate; Huntington to receive an early Warhol


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Robert Shapazian, who died earlier this year at age 67, was not your usual art dealer. Although he was the founding director of Gagosian in Beverly Hills, he had a PhD in English literature from Harvard. He was openly nostalgic for the 1960s and ‘70s, when the art world was less commercial and more bohemian. And his own art collection favored historic works by Duchamp, Man Ray and other avant-garde artists over the latest efforts of hot young things.

Now, however paradoxically, Christie’s is providing a glimpse of the intellectual art dealer as collector. The auction house has just confirmed that it will be selling 69 works from his estate, estimated to bring $22 million to $31 million. The material will appear in multiple New York sales, including the Nov. 10 evening sale.


This marks the third major Los Angeles estate that Christie’s modern and contemporary art team has landed this season. The auction house has already announced that it is handling artworks from the collections of Dennis Hopper, estimated at $9 million to $13 million, and Max Palevsky, estimated at $53 million to $78 million.

The Shapazian material features 13 works by Duchamp, from a ‘Monte Carlo Bond’ issued in 1924 to his 1935-41 ‘Boite en Valise,’ a case packed with miniature versions of his artworks. The consignment also includes Futurist drawings by Giacomo Balla and Carlo Carra and Surrealist photographs by Man Ray.

The most valuable material is a group of 16 Warhol works, led by a ‘Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato)’ painting from 1962, estimated at $6 million to $8 million, a 1962 Marilyn estimated at $4 million to $6 million, and a shocking pink ‘Dollar Sign’ from 1981, estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

Update Oct. 6: A Christie’s spokesperson has updated earlier information provided to say that it is selling Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato)’ from 1962. The first version of this post identified the work as ‘Small Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato)’ from 1962.

“The Warhol grouping contains every major theme in his career — from the Tomato Soup Can to Marilyn, Electric Chair, Jackie Kennedy, Brillo Boxes, Dollar Signs, a Camouflage and a Shadow painting,” says Laura Paulson, deputy chairman in postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, noting that Shapazian held a “Dollar Signs” show at Gagosian Beverly Hills in 1997.

A spokesperson for the Shapazian estate said another major Warhol —the 1962 painting ‘Small Crushed Campbell’s Soup Can (Beef Noodle)’ — will be given to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for its new American galleries later this fall. Smaller gifts have already been bequeathed to other museums, including four Malevich pencil drawings and one El Lissitzky photograph to the L.A. County Museum of Art (to which he had previously donated another Warhol tomato soup can painting) and photographs by Félix Nadar, Maurice Tabard and Edgar Degas to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Paulson said she got to know Shapazian over the last 20 years in part because of his affiliation with the Met. “I used to see him when he came to New York for his work on the Met’s photography committee,” she said. ‘We shared a great interest in Duchamp.’

Did he ever bid at Christie’s? “He hardly went to the auctions — he didn’t like being involved in that aspect of the market,” she said. “But he loved going to previews.”

The preview for the Shapazian consignment will take place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center showrooms from Oct. 15 to 27.

-- Jori Finkel


Robert Shapazian dies at 67; Founding director of Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills