The pandemic kept most plum art estates away from auction in 2020, but Sotheby’s just landed the Texas-size collection of Fort Worth rancher and oil heiress Anne Marion. Ms. Marion, who died early last year at age 81, was married to a retired Sotheby’s chairman and famed auctioneer, John Marion.
Beginning in May, Sotheby’s plans to sell roughly 200 works worth at least $150 million combined from Ms. Marion’s estate of 20th century art and jewelry. It is shaping up to be the art market’s first major estate test of the year.
None of the pieces in the initial set of 18 postwar paintings coming up for bid in New York is expected to fetch the $92 million spent at Sotheby’s last month for a Botticelli. However, the Marion estate contains several colorful trophies in the $20 million to $35 million range that could gauge bidders’ willingness to splurge. “The market feels comfortable at those levels,” said
Sotheby’s chairman of fine art.
Many of the works have been out of sight since Ms. Marion bought them in the 1980s and 1990s, including Clyfford Still’s red and ocher abstract from 1948, “PH-125 (1948-No. 1),” which is estimated to sell for at least $25 million. Others nod to Ms. Marion’s cowgirl upbringing, like Andy Warhol’s gun-toting silkscreen from 1963, “Elvis 2 Times,” which is estimated to sell for at least $20 million. Even the turquoise and apricot hues of Richard Diebenkorn’s 1971 “Ocean Park No. 40” evoke the Southwest, said Sotheby’s senior international specialist Michael Macaulay.
Ms. Marion’s reputation as a horse-breeding, cultural doyenne could add to the works’ appeal. The fourth generation of a pioneering ranching family—her great-grandfather was among the first in Texas to graze cattle—she managed and expanded the family’s oil and quarter-horse empires while maintaining a 260,000-acre ranch, Four Sixes. She took cues on art collecting from her mother, Anne Burnett Tandy, who hired I.M. Pei in 1969 to design her angular, concrete home in the town of Westover Hills. Ms. Marion moved into the home after her mother died, and in 1988 she married Mr. Marion, the auctioneer who helped her sell her mother’s art estate. The year before, he handled the $54 million sale of Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises.”
a fellow Sotheby’s auctioneer and Episcopal priest who officiated at the Marions’ wedding, labeled the couple a “magical combination” who shared a love for American painters like Georgia O’Keeffe. The couple helped found the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., donating dozens of works in 1997.
That same year, Ms. Marion helped hire Tadao Ando to design a new building for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which reopened with key funding from her in 2002. “That gives you a sense of her energy,” Marla Price, the Modern’s director, said of Ms. Marion. “She was soft-spoken and funny, but she was also decisive.”
During her lifetime, Ms. Marion donated hundreds of works of art, including 149 pieces by Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and others, to the Fort Worth Modern. Some gems of her collection will be donated later to museums, including marquee paintings by Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning.
Sotheby’s is handling the bulk of her art holdings, though, and they reveal Ms. Marion’s penchant for big canvases and colorful abstraction. Kenneth Noland’s target-like “Rocker,” estimated to sell for at least $2 million, should offer a fresh test of the artist’s market. So should Roy Lichtenstein’s 1977 “Girl with Beach Ball II,” which is estimated to fetch $12 million or more, and Hans Hofmann’s rainbow grid from 1962, “Iris.” Sotheby’s expects it to sell for at least $4 million. “When you live in an I.M. Pei home, the art has to live up to the architecture,” Ms. Cappellazzo said.
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