Legendary Old Master Dealer Richard Feigen Is Selling His Own Collection at Auction to Fund His Retirement

After more than six decades in the art world, the 88-year-old dealer is selling a select group of his treasures at Christie's.

Richard Feigen. Photo: CARRIE SHALTZ/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Is it the end of an era?

Veteran Old Masters dealer Richard Feigen is selling 10 works from his private collection at Christie’s in May. The 88-year-old art-market fixture told Bloomberg he is selling the treasures to raise money for his retirement.

The American dealer has always maintained that he is a collector at heart; he once said, “I am a collector in dealer’s clothes.” News of the sale comes after Feigen scaled back his operations, moving from a townhouse at 34 East 69th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (which David Zwirner moved into) to a more modest nearby space on 77th Street in 2017.

Guercino, Vanitas Still Life. Photo: courtesy of Christie’s.

Throughout his storied six-decade career, Feigen dabbled in dozens of art movements, selling everything from expressionism to Surrealism, as well as contemporary art (he represented Francis Bacon early in his career and organized John Baldessari’s first solo show in 1970). But he remains best known as a dealer of Old Masters.

The bulk of the works will go under the hammer at Christie’s Old Master’s sale in New York on May 2, including early Italian and Baroque paintings as well as 18th-century British landscapes. At least five works by artists including Annibale Carracci, Guercino, Lorenzo Monaco, and John Constable will be sold at auction. The remaining works will be sold privately. Some of them have hung in his apartment for years.

Ahead of the auction, between January and March, a number of highlights from the collection will go on a five-city international tour to Los Angeles, New York, London, Dubai, and Hong Kong.

John Constable The Skylark, Dedham (recto); Study of a Cow Standing in a Stream (verso). Photo: courtesy of Christie’s.

This isn’t the first time Feigen has turned to auction to sell his works, nor is the trove among the most valuable he’s offloaded. In 2016, as Bloomberg writes, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles paid a record $30.5 million for Orazio Gentileschi’s Danae and the Shower of Gold, which had previously been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Feigen’s family trust. Over the course of his career, Feigen has sold numerous works to institutions, including the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Feigen’s approach to buying and selling was informed by his maturation during the inflation-heavy ’70s, Art Market Monitor notes, when dealers believed that strategic acquisitions would outperform money.

“Known for his discerning eye and impeccable taste, Richard Feigen has always been a true visionary in the global art world,” Francois de Poortere, the head of Christie’s Old Masters department, said in a statement. “He has made countless and startling discoveries throughout his career and continues to champion the field of Old Masters.”

Some of the gems in the sale include a two-sided John Constable landscape (est. $800,00–1.2 million ) and the only known still life by Guercino, Vanitas Still Life (estimated in the region of $3 million).

The offerings could also set new auction records for the Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci, whose Virgin and Child with Saint Lucy and the Young Saint John the Baptist is estimated at a high of $4 million (well above his current $3.4 million record). Meanwhile, Lorenzo Monaco’s The Prophet Isaiah (est. $1.5 million to $2.5 million) could well surpass the artist’s current record of $1.9 million. 

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