Eve Kahn’s New York Times column details the difficulties of dealing with the collection of an artist whose fame has declined after his death. Ben Shahn was once one of the more celebrated American artists but his politically and socially engaged art has seen its market evaporate:
The Shahns surrounded themselves with lively collections: Indian illuminated manuscripts, ancient classical statues and 20th-century works by their friends, including the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jacob Lawrence and the woodworker George Nakashima.
Ms. Shahn died in 2004, at 101, outliving her husband by 35 years. The family is now selling the house, and on Nov. 14 Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, N.J., will offer much of the contents. […]
Rago’s top lots include a 1950s Rauschenberg painting with rosy stripes and circles ($30,000 to $50,000) and a Nakashima walnut platform bed ($5,000 to $7,000). The family has already sold a few major works, to pay estate taxes. In 2005 two of the Shahns’ Calder mobiles, with white and multicolored metal sheets on armatures up to six feet wide, brought a total of about $1.9 million at Sotheby’s.
Shahn Art Collection and Home Are for Sale (New York Times)