Sotheby’s announced the $75m collection of Cleveland auto parts billionaires Morton and Barbara Mandel will be offered in their May sales in New York to benefit the Mandel family’s foundation. The lead lot is a Joan Miró late work estimated at $10-15m, a Barnett Newman work on paper estimated at $800k to $1.2m; a Mark Rothko late work on paper with a $7-10m estimate; a de Kooning from 1978 with an $8-12m estimate; Roy Lichtenstein’s work from the 1970s with a $7-10m estimate; a Donald Judd stack with a $8-12m estimate and a 1964 Warhol flowers painting with a $2-3m estimate.
Here’s Sotheby’s release on the collection:
As Mr. Mandel has said, he and his wife “collected to enrich their lives” and the result is a powerful and personal collection that has remained largely unseen by the public until now. Inspired by the legendary Leo Castelli, who encouraged the couple to focus on a core group of artists, and Arne Glimcher of Pace Gallery, the Mandels carefully assembled their collection over decades. The works have been thoughtfully installed in their homes – creating dynamic juxtapositions of Joan Miró with David Smith, and Roy Lichtenstein with Willem deKooning – and enjoyed each and every day.
- One of the great masterpieces of Joan Miró’s late career, Femme, oiseau recalls the work of the abstract expressionists on whom the artist had been a great influence. Dating from circa 1969, the arresting oil is a poetic example of abstraction at its most daring with expressive brushwork instead of the women, stars, birds and moons that had been found in his earlier painting. Miró builds the present composition using a pictorial lexicon of signs and symbols, while still referencing recognizable objects, such as human figures. Working with thick lines and monochromatic spaces as his central compositional elements, Miró fully explored the possibilities of movement within a two dimensional field.
- A dramatic Untitled Barnett Newman work-on-paper from 1960 is one of a limited number of drawings that would inform the artist’s momentous The Stations of the Cross exhibition. The work is an intimate example of the artist’s revolutionary vertical ‘zip’ that would become his central visual motif. Untitled has been exhibited at many of the world’s foremost institutions including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate in London, the Grand Palais and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, among others.
- Mark Rothko’s 1969 Untitled work-on-paper is an archetypal embodiment of the artist’s legendary color-field compositions and was created the year before his death. While much of Rothko’s late work was characterized by a dark palette, Untitled boasts a ground of brilliant red emerging from serene fields of white and a warm orange. The cloud-like form of gestural white brushwork lends this example a stirring presence, testifying to the immense power of this medium for the artist who, in the twilight years of his career, focused his energies upon exploring the absolute limits of painting on paper. Untitled represents the exquisite culmination of Rothko’s career-long pursuit of aesthetic transcendence through the conflation of pure color and light.
- Untitled VI dates from the watershed period when de Kooning returned to painting after a period in which he focused on sculpture. The 1978 work explodes with color executed in lush, sensuous paint strokes which denote the artist’s wealth of creativity and great resurgence of confidence in his masterful manipulation of oil paint during this time. De Kooning was one of the abstract expressionists from whom Joan Miró took inspiration for his later works such as Femme, oiseau. The work uses a language of signs and symbols while still referencing human figures to explore the possibilities of movement on canvas. Extraordinarily colorful, Femme, oiseau was completed in Miró’s Palma studio and remained in his collection until his death.
- With compressed space and symbols echoing many of the movement’s masters, the enduring influence of Surrealism is evident in Roy Lichtenstein’s Girl with Still Life in Landscape from 1976. The cropped comic strip speech bubble floats away from the artist’s iconic blonde girl, who seduces the viewer from within a dream landscape amidst an array of important Surrealist motifs such as the pyramid, moon, starfish, apple, tree and sailboat. A paragon of the artist’s celebrated Surrealist paintings, Girl with Still Life in Landscape is one of few works from this series remaining in private hands, with many held in renowned institutional collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, among others.
- Untitled (Stack) from 1993 is a pivotal example of Donald Judd’s seminal group of works known as stacks, which he began in 1965. The work was acquired by the Mandels in the same year as its execution and as such has remained unseen by the public. Ten rectangular units of glistening polished brass and green Plexiglas exemplify this iconic format for the artist in a grand scale, with the reduced composition of forms embodying the central tenets of Judd’s artistic practice.
- The Mandels first saw Andy Warhol’s Flowers hanging behind Leo Castelli’s desk during a visit to his gallery. The legendary dealer at first refused to sell the work as it was from his personal collection but relented six months later. The 1964 work is a prime example of the Flower series, which was a significant departure towards the abstract both aesthetically and thematically for Warhol following the Death and Disaster series of the early 1960s. Executed in an intensely blue palette crisply rendered against a brilliant green background, Flowers is an exceptionally vibrant example from this renowned body of work.