The Paley and de Kooning collections at Sotheby’s


The American auction company Sotheby’s has recently announced important news for the art market this autumn, having won the consignment of two leading collections, that of William S. Paley, former president of MoMA, and that of the family of the great American Abstract Expressionist, Willem de Kooning. The two consignments include a number of major works.


$70 million worth of works at MoMA soon to be on sale at Sotheby’s

This fall, Sotheby’s will include in its London and New York sales some thirty works from the collection of William S. Paley, founder of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and president of the MoMA for half a century. The works in question have been under the stewardship of the MoMA since Paley’s death in 1990 and the collection is valued at $70 to 100 million. William Paley’s acquisitions were bold for his time because in the 1930s few collectors had the courage to collect paintings by artists like Picasso, Renoir and Matisse. His instinct and his independent and visionary journey as a collector allowed him to assemble one of the most important collections of Modern art on American soil.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 14 October during Frieze Week in London will feature Francis BACON’s triptych Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963), estimated at over $30 million. This is the first time that this work by Bacon has been marketed since its purchase by Paley from the Marlborough Gallery in 1963. Among the other key lots soon to be auctioned, Pablo Picasso’s Guitar on a table (1919), estimated $20 – 30 million and Renoir’s Les Fraises (1905), a canvas estimated $3 – 4 million, will be presented for sale at Sotheby’s on the evening of 14 November. The proceeds from their dispersion will be allocated in large part to MoMA’s digital and technological initiatives as well as to the museum’s “new strategic acquisitions”. It will also support a number of charitable organizations with commitments similar to those of William S. Paley.

Three masterpieces by Willem de Kooning

Also in November, Sotheby’s will be hosting a sale dedicated to Willem DE KOONING (1904-1997) consisting of three masterpieces from the de Kooning family collection. Covering three decades of the life and work of Willem de Kooning, Sotheby’s has described the set as “extraordinary” with each canvas, personally selected by the artist’s daughter Lisa de Kooning, representing the ‘culmination’ of a decade: Montauk II (1969), Untitled (c. 1979) and The Hat Upstairs (1987). Each work marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of the artist’s practice from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.

The three works, kept in the de Kooning family collection since their creation, are unprecedented not only by their provenance, but also by their singularity and their caliber. One of de Kooning’s most exceptional sets of paintings to ever hit the market, these three masterpieces will make their auction debut at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening in New York on 16 November 2022. The most expensive of the three, made around 1979, was affectionately called “Le Monet” by Madame de Kooning. It does indeed seem to carry the energy and intention of Claude Monet’s later works produced in his garden at Giverny. This untitled canvas from the end of the 1970s is estimated at $30 – 40 million, a range that would generate the artist’s third best-ever result, whose all-time auction record stands at $61.5 million for his Untitled XXV (1977), hammered at Christie’s New York in November 2016.