Christie’s New York has nabbed the late luxury travel magnate Barney A. Ebsworth’s American art collection to headline its “20th Century Art Week” in New York this November. The more than 85 lots could bring in $300 million.
Titled “An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection,” the auction takes its name from Ebsworth’s Seattle residence, designed in collaboration with architect Jim Olson to showcase his art collection.
The crown jewel in the Ebsworth sale—Christie’s chairman Marc Porter told Bloomberg it was “the greatest collection of American modernism ever to come to market”—is Edward Hopper’s painting Chop Suey, estimated at around $70 million. It is “the most important painting by Hopper left in private hands,” Christie’s says, crediting it with “uniquely capturing the zeitgeist of New York during one of its most interesting eras of transition.” The sale also includes Jackson Pollock’s Composition with Red Strokes (est. $50 million) and Willem de Kooning’s Woman as Landscape (est. $60 million).
The Hopper and Pollock paintings are hitting the auction block for the first time, but the de Kooning work previously appeared at Sotheby’s New York in 1990 and again in 1996, according to the artnet Price Database. Both times it failed to attract a buyer at pre-sale estimates of $9 million to 12 million (the first time) and $6 million to 8 million the second time.
“Nobody starts as a collector,” Ebsworth wrote in his autobiography. But after he completed his basic training in the army he took a trip to the Louvre in 1957, which kickstarted his love of art. “You buy a few things you like, and then eight or ten items in, someone says, ‘Boy, you have a great collection,’ and then you realize you have a collection.”
Ebsworth began buying 17th-century Dutch pictures and Japanese scroll paintings, but changed course after a 1971 trip to Rotterdam made him realize he couldn’t compete with established Dutch Golden Age collections. After a chat with Charles Buckley, then director of the St. Louis Art Museum, he decided to target his efforts instead on American Modernism, amassing museum-quality works, both abstract and figurative, mainly dating from the 1920s to the ’60s.
Ebsworth’s collection, which also includes works by Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others, will go on a world tour ahead of the sale, starting in Paris, during La Biennale Paris, and stopping in New York, Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, before the sale at the auction house headquarters at Rockefeller Center.
See more works from the sale below.
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