This fall, the collection of the late New York philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau, will come to auction after much anticipation in the market. The grouping of 120 works assembled by Landau, which span paintings by Pablo Picasso, Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Glenn Ligon and Mark Tansey, among other names, will be sold at Sotheby’s this fall on November 8 and 9.
Backed with a financial guarantee from the house, the collection is estimated to generate over $400 million.
Likely the biggest ticket item to be sold from Landau’s estate is Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting Femme à la montre, a portrait of one of his famous subjects, the young Marie-Thérèse Walter. Works that depict Walter, known in the historical canon as Picasso’s young mistress, often bring in the highest prices for Picasso at auctions. Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and Modern Art for the Americas called the Picasso painting a “definitive” work in Western art history.
Other major works that will be sold include Ed Ruscha’s Securing the Last Letter (Boss) from 1964 and an untitled Mark Rothko painting from 1958. The latter work derives from a famed series that Rothko produced on commission for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram building. Sotheby’s is offering each painting with their estimates available only on request.
Another by Jasper John’s titled Flags, produced ten years later in 1968, is expected to fetch $35-45 million. Self Portrait, a 1986 acrylic and silkscreen painting on canvas by Andy Warhol will also be a part of the major offerings. It is expected to fetch a price between $15-20 million. Other works by Willem de Kooning and Georgia O’Keeffe will be offered at lower price points between $3 million to $6 million.
Landau died at the age of 102 this March. A former trustees at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, she began collecting in the 1960s. She’d come to know Ruscha, Rothko, and Johns personally in the years the artists were actively working in their New York studios. Eventually, Landau would go on to acquire works by major modern and contemporary artists, among them: Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Paul Klee and Louise Nevelson. By 2010, she’d donated more than 300 works to the Whitney Museum.
There are big ticket works by living artists too that Landau cultivated. One of them is Glenn Ligon’s 1991 work I Lost My Voice, I Found My Voice. In the work, Ligon splayed blocks of black text using oil and gesso across a white wood panel. The piece was featured in a 2011 mid-career retrospective dedicated to the artist titled “Glenn Ligon: America” at the Whitney. Though Sotheby’s declined to provide an estimate on the work, which will be offered with it’s estimate available only on request, a representative for the house said it would set a new price benchmark for the artist. The standing auction record for Ligon was set in 2014, when his 1990 work Untitled (I was Somebody) sold at Sotheby’s New York during an evening sale for $3.9 million.
A painting by Mark Tansey titled Triumph Over Mastery II from 1987 is expected to bring an artist record too. The oil painting, which depicts a shirtless figure against a red-toned background is expected to fetch $8 million–$12 million. A record for Tansey was last set in 2018, when his 1988 oil painting Source of the Loue sold for $7.5 million in 2018 at Sotheby’s.
In a statement, Sotheby’s global head of the house’s Fine Arts Division, Brooke Lampley said the remaining collection’s biggest draw is its track record in chronicling important U.S. artists. Lampley said the group of works tell “one of the most comprehensive and era-defining narratives of the trajectory of American Art.”