In a move led by Pace’s Marc Glimcher, three galleries have beat out the auction houses to sell works from the collection of Donald B. Marron, the prominent collector and financier who died in December. Ahead of the sale of the collection, the galleries—Pace, Gagosian, and Acquavella, each of which had close ties with Marron—will organize private selling exhibitions that will put the Marron collection on view in late April, just ahead of May auctions in New York.
Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips received word late on Tuesday, February 18, that the three galleries would handle the sale of the Marron collection privately. In January, it was widely reported that the Marron collection would head to auction, making up a major component of the May sales and carrying a valuation with a whisper number in the range of $450 million.
All three auction houses had offered guarantees of just over $300 million for the 300-work collection. The tripartite deal between the galleries would have to have been for a bigger number. How much higher the galleries were willing to bid and how they divided the overall guarantee is closely held information. Market participants will see how the works were divided when the exhibitions start on Friday, April 24.
Among the works in the collection are Pablo Picasso’s 1937 Femme au beret et la collerette (Woman with Beret and Collar) and his 1962 Femme assise (Jacqueline), Mark Rothko’s 1957 Number 22 (reds), Cy Twombly’s 2011 Untitled (Camino Real), and several pieces by Brice Marden, including his Complements (2004–2007), as well as paintings by Willem de Kooning, Gerhard Richter, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn, and Laura Owens.
The move is undoubtedly a blow to the auction houses whose sales volume in the current market depends far more on securing sufficient supply than in generating demand from collectors. But it is not without risks for the galleries in a market where pricing is well established and the lack of competition may blunt margins.
The announcement also intensifies the competition for the collection of Harry and Linda Macklowe, which the auction houses are said to be pitching this week. The size and importance of the Macklowe collection—valued at $700 million and made up of the couple’s most valuable 65 works that they were ordered to sell by a judge as part of their divorce proceedings—may also have played a role in the guarantee level all three houses were able to offer. The auction houses would have been cautious about over-committing in advance of the Macklowe deal.
The loss of the Marron works also makes Sotheby’s acquisition of the estate of Colorado collector Virginia Williams—with works by Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, and Louise Bourgeois for around $100 million in a deal brokered by Bank of America’s Dana Prussian—seem all the more prescient.