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A Tour of the Ames Collection at Sotheby’s New York, Intimately Hung on the Second Floor

Installation view of he Triumph of Painting: The Steven and Ann Ames Collection,” 2016. COURTESY SOTHEBY'S

Installation view of he Triumph of Painting: The Steven and Ann Ames Collection,” 2016.


Usually, when Sotheby’s installs work from its Fall evening sale in public viewing spaces—where visitors can take in for the last time works that will be sold off and scurried away in private homes, or storage facilities in Geneva—they go to the tenth floor, with its high ceilings and ample space. And the hangs don’t always work as cohesive exhibitions. After all, there’s little curatorial flair when it comes to evening sale, since the works are sold off one by one, with nothing really connecting the lots.

The first 25 lots from this month’s New York postwar and contemporary evening sale, however, are fiercely bound together: they all come from the collection of Ann and Steven Ames, which was consigned to Sotheby’s following Steven Ames’s death earlier this year. And so, instead of installing them on the tenth floor, Sotheby’s moved around some walls in the second-floor viewing space, creating an intimate setting for the work that evokes the manner in which they had been hung in the Ames’s various homes. It’s the first time Sotheby’s has hung an evening sale in the space.

“Ann Ames was in here an hour ago, and she was very pleased,” said Allan Schwartzman, the advisor and Art Agency, Partners founder who has been at Sotheby’s since the acquisition of his company in January. Even though he had no previous experience working at an auction house, he is now the co-head of the Fine Art Division and oversees all the chairmen in various divisions. (His co-head, and fellow Art Agency, Partners co-founder, Amy Cappellazzo, had worked at Christie’s as a chairman of contemporary art.)

We were standing on the second floor on Monday, and Schwartzman was telling me about Steven Ames’s devotion to collecting, which went beyond your normal interest in filling the wall space in various mansions. For instance, Ames became so taken with German painters of a certain generation that he went back to school, getting a master’s in art history at Columbia. His thesis was on Gerhard Richter.

“And it’s really good!” Schwartzman said.

A deep knowledge of that artist is pretty clear when you see the collection, or just look at the pre-sale estimates: A.B., Still (1986) and A.B., St. James (1988) both have a low estimate of $20 million and a high estimate of $30 million. Another Richter, Ziege (1984), is estimated to sell for between $8 million and $12 million.

“What impressed me so much when I saw it is it’s so precise,” Schwartzman said. “Every example is the best of what it is.”

The viewing rooms are now open to the public at the headquarters on York Avenue, and will be until November 16. And if you can’t make it, click through this slide show to see some of the works.

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