Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #59. Photo Courtesy of Christie's.

Post-War & Contemporary Art

We were engaged to represent a well-known San Francisco family in the sale of an important collection of art formed over successive generations. The family was renowned for their philanthropy as well as their longtime support of Bay Area cultural endeavors.

Members of the family had long served on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Over the decades their generous bequests and donations have greatly enriched the Museum's holdings, especially of paintings, drawings and sculptures by modernist masters. The most famous of their gifts, Femme au chapeau by Henri Matisse, was one of the most important works in the recent, critically-acclaimed exhibition The Steins Collect.

While the family was determined to have an auction sale of the collection, they wished to have it professionally managed and supervised by our firm as the auction experience was unfamiliar to them. Hence after the evaluation of proposals from both major auction houses and negotiation of the most favorable financial terms for the family, we offered this diverse collection for sale in a series of specialized auctions over the course of several months.

Among the many highlights was a ravishing work on paper of 1933 by Pablo Picasso entitled Sur la Terrasse, depicting the artist's lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, which soared above its estimate of $500,000-700,000 in bringing $1,594,500. Among many distinguished Post-War paintings in the collection was one of Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn's celebrated Berkeley series paintings, Berkeley #59, which made a robust $6,242,500. Untitled, an early Barnett Newman of 1945, was sold for $3,218,500; and a sensational drawing by Vija Celmins, Untitled # 8, sold well above its estimate for $1,142,500.

The timing of these auctions could not have been more advantageous for the family, as the Post-War art market was at an all-time high. Hence collectors were eager to acquire great works coming fresh to the market and with outstanding provenance.