Whitney Biennial Patron Melva Bucksbaum’s Cutting-Edge Art Collection Is Coming to Christie’s

Following last year's 100-percent-sold outing, another round of work from the namesake of the Biennial's Bucksbaum Award is hitting the block.

Melva Bucksbaum Photo: Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com

By the time she died in 2015 at age 82, Melva Bucksbaum was something of a legend in contemporary art collecting circles.

The former trustee of New York’s Whitney Museum had established the $100,000 Bucksbaum award, one of the largest prizes for visual artists, and played a significant role in the selection of architect Renzo Piano for the Whitney’s new downtown building. She continued to add to her eclectic collection—which ranged from blue-chip painting by the likes of Agnes Martin to adventurous work by emerging artists—even in her final years.

Now, a large selection of Bucksbaum’s collection is set to hit the auction block at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art sale in New York this Thursday. The estimates for the 146 works range widely, from $1,000 (the low estimate for a small photograph of teacups by Sarah Charlesworth from 2002) to $200,000 (the high estimate for George Condo’s black-and-white Mental Landscape from 2008).

Market-watchers will be keeping an eye on the results for first-timers at auction, including the American painter Nina Chanel Abney (who recently had her first solo museum show at the Nasher Museum at Duke University and whose exuberant 2012 painting is estimated between $5,000 and $7,000), the Brooklyn-based artist Cynthia Daignault, and the Belgian painter Farah Atassi. An initial offering of works from the Bucksbaum collection at Christie’s this past fall was 100 percent sold.

The year after her death, Bucksbaum’s estate became the subject of a bitter dispute between her husband Raymond Learsy and her children. Christie’s declined to specify exactly which family members were consigning the works. The attorney for the estate did not respond to artnet News’s request for comment by publication time.

“In embracing work from the studios of artists both known and unknown, Bucksbaum became a model for the kind of collecting that pushes against the status quo,” says Laura Bjorstad, Christie’s head of sale for the Melva Bucksbaum collection.

Works from Bucksbaum’s collection account for more than a quarter of works in the upcoming sale (146 of 393). In all, the Bucksbaum works are expected to realize more than $2.5 million; the overall sale is expected to bring in more than $17.7 million. Additional works from Bucksbaum’s holdings are on offer in Christie’s ongoing online sale, Contemporary Portfolio (February 23–March 2).

View a selection of the works from the upcoming sale below.

Cindy Sherman, <i>Untitled #411</i> (2003). Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #411 (2003)
Estimate: $100,000–150,000.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Nina Chanel Abney, Country Ken (2012) Estimate: $5,000 - 7,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Nina Chanel Abney, Country Ken (2012) Estimate: $5,000–7,000. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Yinka Shonibare, <i>Headless Man Trying to Drink</i> (2005). Estimate: $50,000-70,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Yinka Shonibare, Headless Man Trying to Drink (2005)
Estimate: $50,000–70,000
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, <i>Red Plane</i> (2002) Estimate: $15,000 - 20,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Red Plane (2002)
Estimate: $15,000–20,000
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Cynthia Daignault, <i>New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker</i> (2007) Estimate: $5,000-7,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Cynthia Daignault, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker (2007)
Estimate: $5,000–7,000.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Farah Atassi, <i>Basement</i> (2009). <br> Estimate: $7,000 - 10,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Farah Atassi, Basement (2009).
Estimate: $7,000 –10,000.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Carla Arocha and Stéphane Schraenen, <i> Chris, Untitled</i> (2006). Estimate: $8,000 - 12,000. Courtesy Christie's Images Lt.d.

Carla Arocha and Stéphane Schraenen, Chris, Untitled (2006)
Estimate: $8,000–12,000.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Lt.d.


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