Wassermans’ Impressionist picks heading for auction at Christie’s


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Besides being Hollywood royalty, Elizabeth Taylor and Lew Wasserman had something else in common. They both acquired some big-name Impressionist paintings during the 1950s and ‘60s that are now going up for sale at Christie’s.

While the Taylor estate also includes flashy jewelry and evening gowns, the Wasserman material consists exclusively of fine art: 30 works estimated to bring a total of $18 million to $25 million. The works will appear in the high-profile evening sale of Impressionist and modern material in New York on Nov. 1 as well as the lower-priced sales that take place the following day.


Top works include an 1895 pastel drawing of a woman bathing by Edgar Degas (above), one of the painter’s favorite subjects, estimated to bring from $3.5 million to $5.5 million; a circa-1890 moody self-portrait on canvas by Edouard Vuillard that could sell for $500,000-$700,000; and several fan-shaped drawings and paintings by different artists, from Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec, that could be worth more together than apart.

Another attention-getter is a later-day Matisse: his loosely painted, richly patterned 1942 painting ‘Jeune Fille a la Robe Violette’ (‘Girl in a Purple Dress’), which he made at age 74 while in the south of France recuperating from serious abdominal surgery. ‘To the best of our knowledge the painting has never been exhibited publicly before,’ says Christie’s Impressionist/Modern head Conor Jordan, who expects interest could come from as far as Russia or Asia.

Wasserman, the powerful Hollywood mogul who ran MCA and Universal Studios, died in 2002 at age 89. His wife of nearly 66 years, Edie, died in August at 95.

It is likely that Christie’s success with the Frances Brody estate, the L.A. estate that set the world record for a Picasso painting at $106 million, played some role in helping the auction house secure this property over its arch-rival Sotheby’s.

But grandson Casey Wasserman, an arts patron himself who is a trustee at the L.A. County Museum of Art, declined to answer any specific questions on the sale or its proceeds.

He instead issued the following statement by email: ‘This Collection represents my grandparents’ shared passion for Impressionist art. Many pieces have never been exhibited publicly (outside of their home), so their long-term plan was always to offer these specific works to other benefactors who collect this caliber of Impressionist and modern art.”



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-- Jori Finkel