A New York Political Power Couple’s Art Collection Could Fetch $60 Million at Sotheby’s

The Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection includes 90 works by artists from Picasso to Twombly.

Roy Lichtenstein Study for ‘The White Tree’ (1979). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

Works on paper will take center stage at the November auctions. Sotheby’s has secured a collection of 90 works from the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection, which collectively carry an estimate of $40 million to $60 million.

One of the few major collectors to focus almost exclusively on works on paper, Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Ambassador Carl Spielvogel amassed an extensive number of drawings and works on paper by artists including Lucian Freud, Henri Matisse, and Cy Twombly over the course of several decades.

Diamonstein-Spielvogel was the first director of cultural affairs in New York City and the author of 23 books on urban and preservation issues. Her husband, Carl Spielvogel, is a board member at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a former US ambassador to the Slovak Republic.

Mark Rothko Untitled (1968). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“Works on paper are the most profound expression of the artist’s intent, I believe,” Diamonstein-Spielvogel said in a statement. The collection includes examples by artists ranging from Edgar Degas, Georges Braque, and Joan Miró to Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Roy Lichtenstein. The works will be sold across Sotheby’s Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary sales in New York in November.

Highlights include seven works by Jasper Johns, who has a particular affection for works on paper. They include Numbers (2006), which carries an estimate of $2.5–3.5 million. Pablo Picasso is represented by five works from 1901 to 1970.

All proceeds from the sales will go towards the collectors’ eponymous foundation, which supports scientific and medical research, educational reform, and cultural projects. “It is our hope that future collectors will experience genuine delight from the works presented, and that through the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Foundation, the artists represented will derive great satisfaction from the fact that many others will benefit for many years to come,” Diamonstein-Spielvogel said.

Jasper Johns Numbers (2006). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The sale is the result of years of complex negotiations. “For nearly five years, Sotheby’s has been in discussion with Barbaralee and Carl about the future of their collection and their philanthropic intentions,” Lisa Denison, chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, said in a statement.

So far, no single lot secured for the marquee November sales looks poised to rocket to the heights of the $110.5 million Basquiat this spring. But the Diamonstein-Spielvogels are not the only high-profile collectors parting with works in November. The fall sales also include the Jerome and Ellen Stern collection (at Sotheby’s), which carries an estimate of at least $20 million, and the Heinz and Ruth Eppler Collection (at Christie’s), estimated to fetch more than $60 million.

René Magritte La réponse imprévu
(1963 or 1964). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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