Sotheby’s has secured the vast collection of Texas heiress Anne Marion, who died last February at the age of 81. The collection, which is rich in work by American postwar artists like Andy Warhol, Clyfford Still, and Roy Lichtenstein, is expected to fetch a collective $150 million when it sells at auction in New York this spring. It will be sold across eight sales of work in various categories, including 20th century art, Old Masters, American art, and jewelry.
A fourth-generation heiress to the Four Sixes Ranch and the Burnett Oil company, founded by her great grandfather Samuel Burnett, Marion went on to expand her family’s ranching and oil empire, amassing a net worth of $1.1 billion that made her one of the country’s top arts patrons.
Many of the works in the Marion estate have been out of the public eye since the 1970s and 1980s, when she first began acquiring art. Among the top works to be sold are Warhol’s 1963 silver silkscreen painting Elvis 2 Times, featuring a double image of the rock ’n’ roll icon sourced from a 1960s movie still, an homage to Marion’s ranching roots. A similar work resides at the Whitney Museum, a gift from Leonard Lauder. Marion’s Elvis is expected to sell for $20 million–$30 million.
Also headed to auction is Richard Diebenkorn’s 1971 seven-foot-tall Ocean Park No. 40, from the series that commands the artist’s highest prices. The piece is expected to reach a price between $20 million–$30 million. Still’s PH-125 (1948-No. 1), from 1948, is estimated at $25 million–$35 million, making it the top lot of the bunch, and its appearance on the block is unusual, since the Abstract Expressionist’s output is largely held by the artist’s museum. When Still works do come up for auction, they tend to command large prices.
Roy Lichtenstein’s 1977 painting Girl with Beach Ball II, from the artist’s Surrealism-inspired period, is estimated at $12 million–$18 million. Its counterpart, Girl with Beach Ball III, is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Other works from the period reside in the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the collection of Chicago philanthropists Sam and Helen Zell.
Additionally, works by Franz Kline, Gerhard Richter, Robert Motherwell, Wayne Thiebaud, and Kenneth Noland sell at values between $4 million and $20 million. The pandemic has placed on hold major estate collections of this value, but with works such as these, the Marion collection is set to enter a still-strong Covid-era market that has maintained high demand for postwar trophy pieces.
“Marion’s extraordinary collection not only embodies critical innovations of twentieth-century American Art History, notably uniting paragons of Abstract Expressionism with original icons of Pop Art,” said Michael Macaulay, Sotheby’s senior international specialist in contemporary art, in a statement. “But it also singularly reflects a simply remarkable life.”
In addition to her collecting, Marion was known widely for her philanthropy. Through her family-founded charitable organization, the Burnett Foundation, for which she served as president, together with her husband, former Sotheby’s chairman and auctioneer John L. Marion, she backed art institutions with major donations. In 1997 they used a $10 million gift through the foundation to establish the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Sante Fe. Later, they became the driving force behind a $65 million expansion of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Anne also served as a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, where she served for four decades.
John is best remembered for his role in selling of some of the most high-profile works ever to come through Sotheby’s, including Vincent van Gogh’s Irises (which sold for $53.9 million), Pablo Picasso’s Yo Picasso ($47.9 million), and Picasso’s Au Lapin Agile ($40.7 million).
That Sotheby’s won the consignment is not a surprise, given its track record with past Marion consignments. In November 2014, Sotheby’s sold three works from the O’Keeffe museum to benefit its acquisition fund; the works had been donated to the museum by the Burnett Foundation. O’Keeffe’s 1932 painting Jimson Weed (White Flower No. 1), which once hung in the White House at the request of former First Lady Laura Bush, sold for a record-setting $44 million, against an estimate of $10 million.
Highlights from the estate slated for the first sale in May titled, “The Collection of an American Visionary,” will be showcased beginning March 10, starting in Palm Beach and traveling to Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Taipei, Hong Kong, London, and New York. Items of Marion’s personal jewelry collection will also be sold at prices between $15,000–$100,000.