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Museums not all smiles as close to $100 million worth of art from local estates heads to Christie's

October 26, 2010 |  7:37 am

Girlinmirror When it comes to L.A. business-getting, Christie's has been on a roll. Earlier this year, the auction house broke records by selling a $106.5-million Picasso nude and a $28.6-million Jasper Johns Flag painting from two Los Angeles estates, those of Frances Brody and Michael Crichton, respectively.

And this year, its big November sales in New York feature modern and contemporary art from the estates of three longtime Angelenos: Robert Shapazian, the founding director of Gagosian Beverly Hills; Dennis Hopper, the actor who also made art; and Max Palevsky, the co-founder of Intel.

For Christie’s this represents a success story worth publicizing, one that has been dubbed “L.A. rising” in-house. "It's a testament to the growth of cultural life in Los Angeles," said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. “We're seeing a generation of L.A. collectors, who started in the 1960s, coming of age," added Laura Paulson, the auction house's deputy chairman.

But not everybody is celebrating, because artwork that could be collectively valued at more than $100 million has just been packed up and shipped out of Los Angeles, perhaps never to return.

The Shapazian grouping consists of 69 works, rich in Duchamp and Warhol, estimated altogether at $22 million to $31 million. The Hopper estate, led by a 1987 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting estimated at $5 million to $7 million, has 35 lots expected to realize $9 million to $13 million. The Palevsky material has the greatest range: from antiquities to 20th century decorative arts, and from an Egon Schiele nude to a Roy Lichtenstein blond. All told, the Palevsky group is made up of more than 250 works expected, over multiple sales, to realize $53 million to $78 million.

And every work heading to auction is a work that has not been donated to one of the region's museums. To take just one example from the Palevsky collection: A 1980 Donald Judd stainless-steel-and-aluminum stack sculpture did not go the L.A. County Museum of Art, where Palevsky was a longtime supporter. Christie's estimates it will bring $1.8 million to $2.5 million in its Nov.10 evening sale.

Or, from the Hopper material, Marcel Duchamp's ready-made "Hotel Green (Entrance)" from 1963, which appeared in MOCA’s “Dennis Hopper Double Standard” show this summer, has not been gifted to the museum. Next month, it goes on the block at Christie’s with a $40,000 to $60,000 estimate.

Click here for my full report on the exodus of artwork from L.A. 

-- Jori Finkel
Twitter.com/jorifinkel

Image: Roy Lichtenstein's "Girl in Mirror" from 1964, porcelain enamel on steel, from the Max Palevsky estate, is estimated by Christie's at $3 million to $4 million.

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Comments () | Archives (1)

Rich people are even greedy pigs after they die. And so are their progeny.

Museum directors in this town work their butts off serving the bloody rich and what do our world-class museums get for it? A ceramic dish (a nice ceramic dish I grant you) but barely a single work of art to fill out a collection. And what is the Huntington going to do with a Warhol - put it next to a Gainsborough? What a weird choice - did the guy have alzheimers? The rich get richer, the museums go begging and the new age of "philanthropy" continues - where the rich want something back for their gifts. Which, ahem...makes them NOT gifts.

Greed after death. Must be a new ring in hell for that.


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