Andy Warhol, A Group of Four Portraits of São Schlumberger. Each: acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. Each: 102.2 by 102.2cm; 40 ¼ by 40 ¼ in. Each executed in 1974. Est. $2/3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
NEW YORK, NY.- This November, Sotheby’s New York will present The Schlumberger Collection, the magnificent compendium of Modern and Contemporary masterworks acquired by distinguished collectors and benefactors, Pierre and São Schlumberger. The collection brings together over 90 outstanding works from the Twentieth Century with a combined estimate in excess of $85 million and is led by Mark Rothko’s pivotal canvas No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange) from 1951, which has been in The Schlumberger Collection for over 40 years. Other highlights include important Color Field, Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Surrealist works, reflecting a lifetime of collecting fueled by a singular vision and relationships with artists forged over decades. Highlights will be on view in Hong Kong and London before the entire collection will be installed together in Sotheby’s New York headquarters for a special two-day preview exhibition from 22-24 October before being showcased in our main exhibitions of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art from 31 October to 11 November. The Collection will be offered in the Evening and Day Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art on 4 & 5 and 11 & 12 November, respectively.
Oliver Barker, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe commented: “Pierre and São Schlumberger belonged to one of the most important collecting dynasties of all time, but their vision was entirely their own: a unique aesthetic that blended their European roots with their American experience. Pierre’s early passion for the modern masters combined with São’s engagement with some of the key artists of the Twentieth Century to produce one of the most important private collections of our time, and helped prominent institutions including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Centre Georges Pompidou to acquire major masterworks. For several decades, the Schlumbergers were at the center of both New York and Paris society, and hosted such luminaries as Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol and Rudolph Nureyev in their homes around the world. It is a tremendous honor to share their extraordinary legacy with collectors this autumn.”
Pierre & São Schlumberger are considered two of the most visionary collectors of the Twentieth Century. A successful businessman from one of France’s most distinguished families, Pierre led the company founded by his father, Marcel, and uncle, Conrad, inventors of wireline logging, which is still the primary method used to locate and retrieve oil deposits from the earth’s subsurface all over the world. Pierre Schlumberger had already amassed a superlative collection of Modern art, inspired in part by his uncle, including works by Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian, paralleling that of his cousin Dominique de Menil by the time he married São in 1961. Working closely with influential Post-War art dealers Alexander Iolas and Ileana Sonnabend, and nurturing close relationships with artists, São expanded the collection to include contemporary works by a range of artists including Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg, whose sculpture Oracle is now in the Pompidou Center collection.
As leading figures in Parisian and New York society, the Schlumbergers were major benefactors of the arts, helping to fund the restoration of Versailles, backing Robert Wilson’s early avant-garde operas and becoming the first patrons to commission Warhol for a silkscreen portrait. They sat on the boards of the Pompidou Center, where they donated works by Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, and were patrons of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Lincoln Center and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to which they donated a major Piet Mondrian grid painting. Their close circle also included some of the most prominent collectors of the day, including La duchesse de Bedford, Gunter Sachs, Gianni Agnelli, and, Ronald and Leonard Lauder.
The couple’s many residences expressed their distinctive tastes in art and design. The renowned architect of his time, Pierre Barbe, architect of the House in Chantilly for the Aga Khan, was a close friend of Pierre Schlumberger. Barbe was commissioned to rebuild the mansion on the Rue Férou near the Luxembourg Gardens which was decorated by Valerian Rybar and Daiere in an audacious and colorful blend of contemporary and classic styles. The home became a salon for artists such as Rauschenberg, Christo, Man Ray, Dalí, and Lichtenstein. The Schlumbergers’ other residences included a 100-acre estate in Portugal, where the couple once entertained 1,500 guests at the famous “Le Dolce Vita” ball, including Audrey Hepburn and Gina Lollobrigida; the David Hicks-designed Cap Ferrat estate, “Le Clos Fiorentina,” one of the French Rivera’s most beautiful villas; and a stunning Sutton Place apartment in New York. Wherever they were, Pierre and São were an irresistible magnet for a cadre of artists, designers, performers and society luminaries.
Mark Rothko, No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange), signed and dated 1953 on the reverse. Oil on canvas, 241.5 by 162.5 cm; 95 by 64 in. Executed in 1951. Estimate upon request. Photo: Sotheby’s.
“This dramatic canvas ranks among Mark Rothko’s most compelling paintings – from the zenith of his career – to remain in private hands. Its composition brings fresh changes on the artist’s classic ‘signature’ style. Together, these factors make No. 21 a unique example of Rothko’s art.”
– Dr. David Anfam, Editor of the catalogue raisonné Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas
No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange) stands at the pinnacle of Mark Rothko’s mature work and is being offered at auction for the first time having been purchased by the Schlumbergers from the artist’s estate. The vast canvas was executed in 1951, a pioneering period for the artist when he was exploring the very limits of abstraction. The canvas was first exhibited in the legendary exhibition 15 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1952. That seminal show included many of the most recognizable icons of American Art including Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Clyfford Still’s 1947-S, in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Subsequent to that show, the work has only been exhibited twice and has not been seen in public since the major European travelling retrospective of Rothko’s art organized by the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1971-72. Mr. Barker added, “Among the finest examples of the artist’s work remaining in private hands, No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange), could easily achieve a price in excess of $50 million.”
Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting, Blue. Estimate $5,000,000-7,000,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
Abstract Painting, Blue is a historically monumental example of Ad Reinhardt’s groundbreaking oeuvre (est. $5/7 million). Painted in 1953, the watershed year in which the artist won the widespread critical praise of which he was so deserved, the work is an archetype of Reinhardt’s pioneering early output and among the largest canvases by the artist to appear at auction. “Major works by Reinhardt are extremely scarce on the market and the appearance of the present canvas at auction this November is a major event,” noted Mr. Barker.
Adolph Gottlieb, Red and Blue. Estimate $2,000,000-3,000,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
The vast Red and Blue by Adolph Gottlieb is a prime example of the artist’s most accomplished renowned series of Burst paintings (est. $2/3 million). The archetypal abstract expressionist gesture of the Bursts is parallel to Jackson Pollock’s “drips”, Barnett Newman’s “zips” and Mark Rothko’s floating bands of color, and Red and Blue epitomizes the triumph of Gottlieb’s most significant series.
Morris Louis, Lambda II. Estimate $1,000,000-1,500,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
The monumental eight-and-a-half by twelve-foot canvas of Morris Louis’ Lambda II encompasses the viewer with nearly symmetrical cascades of color (est. $1/1.5 million). The work is one of the first of a series of paintings the artist titled Unfurleds, executed primarily between June and July of 1960, they are widely considered the painter’s crowning achievement.
Alexander Calder, Handshake and Fishtail. Estimate $2,000,000-3,000,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
Handshake and Fishtail is archetypal of Alexander Calder’s most forcefully magnetic mobile sculptures (est. $2/3 million). Once in the prominent collection of famed Academy-Award winning director Billy Wilder, celebrated for classic films like The Apartment and Some Like It Hot, the present work’s illustrious provenance renders it a formidable model of Calder’s output during his most sought after period.
John Chamberlain, Mr. Moto, 1963. Estimate $1,800,000-2,500,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
John Chamberlain’s pressed metal sculptures are some of the most distinctive works post-war sculpture. Mr. Moto from 1963 combines this gestural vigor with many of the aesthetic tenets of the burgeoning Pop Art movement (est. $1.8/2.5 million). Included in many of Chamberlain’s seminal career-defining exhibitions, this work was selected personally by Chamberlain for his retrospectives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in both 1972 and 2012, Mr. Moto is one of Chamberlain’s earliest and foremost sculptural achievements.
Cité Fantoche was executed at the very peak of Jean Dubuffet’s artistic prowess and is one of the most accomplished paintings by the artist ever to appear at auction (est. $4/6 million). The simplified palette of Cité Fantoche, with carefully placed and energizing highlights of yellow, pink and orange lends the abstractive figuration a clearer contour and would become typical in series such as L’Hourloupe from late 1963 onwards.
Amongst the coterie of artists that São Schlumberger championed, there was perhaps none more important or favored than Andy Warhol. Significantly, it was Warhol who first sought out his subject for the spectacular quadruple Portrait São Schlumberger of 1974 (est. $2/3 million), and not vice versa. For the current work, the artist photographed her at the Carlyle Hotel in New York using his distinctive Polaroid camera. It was due to Sao’s support that Warhol’s retrospective at the Pompidou was able to take place.
Salvador Dalí, La Femme Poisson. Estimate $3,000,000-4,000,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
Leading an extraordinary group of Surrealist works is La Femme Poisson by Salvador Dalí (est. $3/4 million). Dating from his most important period the work is a spectacular example of Dalí’s boundless imagination and technical skill. La Femme Poisson features many of the signature motifs that characterize the Catalan’s work such as a clock, desert landscape, a shoe, and the cypress. The painting is inscribed to ‘Olivette’ Dalí’s term of endearment to his lover Gala Eluard.
Salvador Dalí, Swirling Sea Necklace. Estimate $100,000-150,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
São Schlumberger and Salvador Dalí shared a love for the lavish and avant-garde. The artist was commissioned to paint São’s portrait shortly after her marriage and the design for Swirling Sea Necklace must have been the subject, or indeed even the result, of the numerous fascinating conversations which took place between artist and sitter (est. $100/150,000). Executed after Dalí’s meticulous designs by his long term collaborator, New York jeweler Carlos Alemany, Swirling Sea Necklace is made up of flowing tassels set with pearls and emerald and sapphire beads flowing onto stylized gold. These elements culminate in that most precious and luminous product of the sea, a baroque cultured pearl, set on the crest of a wave and nestled in the nape of the wearer’s neck.
Painted in 1956, Les enfants belongs to a series of canvases executed by Pablo Picasso of his two youngest children (est. $5/7 million). Unlike his earlier more formal portraits of Paolo and Maya, Picasso’s paintings of Claude and Paloma offer an informal picture of his growing children. Picasso was a devoted father and took great pleasure from spending time with his children as the many photographs from this period indicate and in these works he set out to capture the essence of this experience. More than just a charming family scene, there is a curious tension at the heart of the present composition – the detail that Picasso has built up in his depiction of Claude is juxtaposed with the stark simplicity of his rendering of Paloma, perhaps referencing the growing absence of the children in his life at that time following his separation from their mother, Françoise Gilot.
Pablo Picasso, Baigneuse Au Ballon. Estimate $1,000,000-1,500,000. Photo: Sotheby’s
The collection also includes the work-on-paper Baigneuse Au Ballon, an extraordinary piece exemplifying the unparalleled inventiveness of Picasso’s art which was drawn in August 1929 (est. $1/1.5 million). That summer the artist was holidaying with his wife Olga in Brittany but installed Marie-Thérèse Walter nearby. His frequent escapes to the beach to meet his young lover inspired many works from this period including Baigneuse Au Ballon.