What Will Happen to Billionaire A. Alfred Taubman’s Astonishing Art Collection?

The shopping mall magnate owned works by Warhol, Kline, and O'Keeffe.

A. Alfred Taubman and wife Judy Taubman. Photo: Dustin Wayne Harris/Patrick McMullan.

Shopping mall magnate, former Sotheby’s chairman, and billionaire arts patron A. Alfred Taubman died on April 17 at the age of 91 (see Former Sotheby’s Owner and Billionaire Mall Mogul A. Alfred Taubman Has Died). Known for turning around a then-struggling Sotheby’s when he purchased the business in 1983 (and for his brief stint in jail after the auction house pleaded guilty to price fixing), Taubman was also in possession of an impressive art collection, much of which was donated to various institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), over the course of his life (see What Does A. Alfred Taubman’s Death Mean for the Future of the Detroit Institute of Arts?). While mostly concerned with early-20th century abstract painting, Taubman’s collection carries a few surprises.

What will become of Taubman’s collection, outlined below, in the wake of his death? While no specific information about the will has been released, if his philanthropic lifestyle is any indication, we may be more likely to see these works enter the permanent collection at a museum than the auction block at Sotheby’s.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Spring (1922). Photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS).

Georgia O’Keeffe, Spring (1922).
Photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS).

1. Georgia O’Keeffe
In the book Georgia O’Keeffe: Circling Abstraction, Taubman is credited with owning the 1922 work Pink and Green. While no images of the canvas are available, Spring was painted in the same year and employs a similar color palette. Last year, O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for a record-breaking $44 million, putting the market for her work at an all-time high (see O’Keeffe Painting Sells for $44 Million at Sotheby’s, Sets Record for Work by Female Artist).

Paul Klee, Small Landscape with Garden Door (1928). Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts.

Paul Klee, Small Landscape with Garden Door (1928).
Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts.

2. Paul Klee
Paul Klee‘s picturesque 1928 oil painting Small Landscape with Garden Door (1928) is one of DIA’s most prized acquisitions from Taubman’s collection. He donated the painting in 1987, three years after he joined the museum’s board.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Le Cheval Majeur (The Large Horse) (1914). Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Le Cheval Majeur (The Large Horse) (1914).
Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts.

3. Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Another one of DIA’s treasures, Taubman donated Duchamp-Villion’s landmark Cubist sculpture Le Cheval Majeur (The Large Horse) (1914) in 2007. It currently resides in the Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden.

Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, A lutenist, seated on a bench, seen in profile (circa 1500). Photo: artnet.

Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, A lutenist, seated on a bench, seen in profile (ca. 1500).
Photo: artnet.

4. Giovanni Agostino da Lodi
A departure from the early-20th-century works that dominated his collection, Taubman was the owner of the red crayon drawing Woman gazing into a mirror (Allegory of Prudence) (circa 1500) by Italian painter Giovanni Agostino da Lodi. While no images of the work are available, A lutenist, seated on a bench, seen in profile employs the same medium.

Lyonel Feininger, Study, on the Cliffs (Early Attempt at Cubist Form) (1912). Photo: artnet.

Lyonel Feininger, Study, on the Cliffs (Early Attempt at Cubist Form) (1912).
Photo: artnet.

5. Lyonel Feininger
Taubman loaned Lyonel Feininger‘s canvas Study, on the Cliffs (Early Attempt at Cubist Form) (1912) to the Whitney Museum for a retrospective in 2011 (see artnet Magazine Weekend Update). Feininger’s Expressionist canvases occasionally hint at his past as a caricature and comic strip artist, though this 1912 painting is more interested in an exploration of Cubism.

Andy Warhol, Silver Marlon (1963). Photo: Andy Warhol Foundation.

Andy Warhol, Silver Marlon (1963).
Photo: Andy Warhol Foundation.

6. Andy Warhol
Owning a Warhol is a status symbol for collectors and Silver Marlon (1963), a silkscreen depicting Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, is no exception. Four Marlons (1966), a similar work featuring four images of Brando recently hammered for $69,605,000 at Christie’s New York (see Buy, Sell, Hold: Andy Warhol).

Franz Kline, Elizabeth (1958). Photo: artnet.

Franz Kline, Elizabeth (1958).
Photo: artnet.

7. Franz Kline
Taubman owned Franz Kline‘s 1958 black-and-white painting Elizabeth, which the artist painted for his wife, Elizabeth V. Parsons, a British ballet dancer.

Amedeo Modigliani,  Paulette Jourdain (1919). Photo: artnet.

Amedeo Modigliani, Paulette Jourdain (1919).
Photo: artnet.

8. Amedeo Modigliani
Taubman loaned the 1919 portrait Paulette Jourdain (1919) by Modigliani to the Jewish Museum for its 2004 exhibition “Modigliani: Beyond the Myth” (see Artnet News: Modigliani: Beyond the Myth). Johnny Depp and Helly Nahmad were among other lenders for the show.

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