Early news of New York's November auction season suggests that private collectors will continue to cash in on their art or sell it to benefit charitable causes instead of donating the art to museums. The 1986 income tax law, which decreased deductions on art's appreciated value, triggered the trend. Escalating art prices have further discouraged gifts to museums, even on the part of longtime museum supporters.
The latest to take the auction route are two leading Chicago collections: those of the late Robert B. Mayer, a founding member of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art and a member of the purchasing committee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and of Lewis Manilow, a past president of the Museum of Contemporary Art and current board member of that museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Twenty major pieces of contemporary art from the Mayer collection and 30 from the Manilow collection will go on the block Nov. 7 at Christie's New York.
Mayer, former president of Maurice L. Rothschild, a clothing retailer, died in 1974, leaving a collection of about 2,000 items. His 21-room home in Winnetka, Ill., contained seven galleries of paintings and sculptures, antiques and Oriental, Oceanic and African works. Mayer's wife, Buddy, established the Robert B. Mayer Memorial Loan Program, which for 15 years has loaned parts of the collection to colleges and museums nationwide and occasionally given art to borrowing institutions.
Now the program is broadening its philanthropic focus, according to a press release. The first move is to sell some works in the collection to support health care, the arts, education and the quality of life for elderly people.
The top lot in the Mayer sale is a potential record-setter by Roy Lichtenstein. "Torpedo . . . Los," a 1963 painting inspired by war-themed comic strips, is valued at $3 million to $4 million. Lichtenstein's record is $2.09 million, set in 1988 for "I Can See the Whole Room."
Other contemporary pieces from the Mayer collection include "O through 9," a 1960 collage by Jasper Johns (estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million); "Monsieur d'Hotel," a 1947 oil by Jean Dubuffet ($800,00 to $1 million); a two-panel painting, "Red Blue Green Yellow" by Ellsworth Kelly ($350,000 to $550,000), and works by Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Artschwager, James Rosenquist and George Segal ($150,000 to $350,000).
Immediately following the Mayer sale, Christie's will offer 30 works by American and European artists from the collection of attorney Manilow and his wife, Susan.
The Manilow collection includes many well-known names but few whose works have commanded$1 million at auction. Two paintings by Robert Ryman--a 10-panel piece called "Study for Brussels" and "Summit"--are each valued at $650,000 to $850,000. Among other Minimalist works in the sale are Donald Judd's 1976 "Progression" ($75,000 to $100,000) and a Sol LeWitt wall drawing ($50,000 to $75,000).
The sale offers works by Frank Stella--"Mitered Squares" from 1968 and "Mysterious Bird of Ulieta" from 1977 (each valued at $350,000 to $450,000)--as well as a Jonathan Borofsky self-portrait ($25,000 to $35,000). Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and A. R. Penck are among German artists in the Manilow sale. Italians include Mimmo Paladino, Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia.
Additional, lower-priced contemporary works from the Mayer and Manilow collections will be sold on Nov. 8. Christie's Nov. 14-15 sale of Impressionist and modern art, a Nov. 21 sale of contemporary prints and the firm's Nov. 21-22 auction of Latin American art will include pieces from the Mayer collection.