Rothko and Warhol among ‘legendary’ art collection being sold in divorce

Further 30 works from Macklowe collection to be auctioned in New York in May after billionaire couple’s split

A never-before-seen masterpiece by Mark Rothko and one of Andy Warhol’s last self-portraits are among the dozens of works to be auctioned this spring as part of the sale of one of the greatest collections of modern contemporary art ever assembled.

The Macklowe collection, which was amassed by the real estate magnate Harry Macklowe and Linda Burg, an honorary trustee of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, is being sold to help settle the billionaire couple’s acrimonious divorce.

Last November, more than $676m (£503m) was paid for the first half of the collection, in the most valuable single-auction ever staged and the most valuable action held by Sotheby’s, one of the world’s leading art houses.

On Friday, Sotheby’s revealed a further 30 works, which will be offered at auction in New York in May. Highlights were unveiled in London by Will Gompertz, director of arts of the Barbican, and Eleanor Nairne, a curator at the Barbican.

A never-before-seen piece by Mark Rothko.
A never-before-seen piece by Mark Rothko. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Among these were Rothko’s Untitled from 1960, a rich oxblood-coloured and meditative piece from a critical moment in the artist’s career, which is expected to fetch $35m-$50m. The work demonstrates Rothko’s deepening palate, as he moved away from the bright colours he used in the mid-1950s to more emotive ones.

One of Warhol’s final works, a monumental self-portrait painted as he contemplated his own legacy and status, is expected to fetch $15m-$20m. Vanitas: Skulls and Self Portraits by Andy Warhol is part of the artist’s “fright wig” series of work from 1986.

Warhol’s use of camouflage depicts his performative relationship with identity and his sense of playfulness. The artist died just nine months after making the work.

Gerhard Richter’s Seestück (Seascape), a large-scale painting from 1975, capturing the beauty of the natural world, will also be sold, as will two paintings by Willem de Kooning – Untitled, from 1961, and Untitled XIII, from 1984. Other artists including Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, and Jeff Koons also feature.

Seascape (Seestück) by Gerhard Richter.
Seascape (Seestück) by Gerhard Richter. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock

“The November sale of 35 works from the Macklowe Collection captivated top collectors around the world and set records in the process,” said Charles F Stewart, Sotheby’s chief executive officer. “We are thrilled to present a further 30 works from this legendary collection in May, in what is sure to be another highly anticipated sale.”

The Macklowes built up their art collection over almost six decades of marriage. The couple were renowned for making barbed exchanges at public events, and their marital strife eventually resulted in a divorce. But neither they nor their lawyers could agree on the value of their art collection, so a judge ordered that they be sold.

Brooke Lampley, the Sotheby’s chairman and worldwide head of sales for global fine art, said the collection told “the story of art in its highest form, with the utmost precision of clarity. Every artist here is represented at a moment of profound creativity”.


Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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