Sotheby’s sale of the Emily Fisher Landau collection fetched $425 million. In a market where single-owner sales are a rarity, this white-glove auction of 111 works not only exceeded expectations but also underscored stability, contrasting with the recent unpredictability in the broader art market.
Over her 102 years of life, Emily Fisher Landau acquired approximately 1,200 works of art. Her legacy extends beyond being a collector; she was a friend and champion to a legion of artists, many of whose works now graced this momentous sale. Her journey in art, sparked by an insurance payout from a jewel theft and a Calder mobile carried home on a cross-town bus, took her through the heart of the art world.
The first evening alone saw 31 lots go under the hammer for a combined $406.4 million, establishing the collection as the most valuable ever dedicated to a female collector. The subsequent day auction added another $18.3 million, solidifying the Landau collection’s place among the most valuable single-owner collections ever offered.
The evening featured multiple records, highlighting the enduring appeal of the 20th century masters. The top five lots all surpassed $20 million, with nine works exceeding $10 million each, and an impressive average lot value of $13 million.
At the heart of this historic auction was Pablo Picasso’s “Femme à la montre,” a portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter from 1932, achieving the second-highest price ever for the artist at auction, a staggering $139.4 million. This masterpiece’s bidding set the tone for the evening, with numerous records falling in its wake.
Jasper Johns’ ‘Flags’ from 1986 established a new high for a painting from his landmark series at $41 million, while Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’ fetched $39.4 million, marking the artist’s second-highest auction price.
The diverse array of artworks showcased throughout the event, from Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Pink Tulip” to Mark Tansey’s “Triumph Over Mastery II,” painted a vivid tapestry of Landau’s journey through the echelons of modern masterpieces.
Featured Image: Emily Fisher Landau in front of The Shadow by Andy Warhol (1981). Source: Whitney Museum of American Art