Sotheby’s has announced that it has secured one of the major estates to be auctioned in November during the New York evening sales: the Steven and Ann Ames Collection, which contains works by Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston.
The blockbusters from the collection—which is being hailed by Sotheby’s as “The Triumph of Painting: The Steven and Ann Ames Collection”—will be sold in a standalone sequence at the start of Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction on November 17, with other works on offer during the day sale on November 18.
A Sotheby’s representative said the estimate for the entire collection will be “in excess of $100 million.” The auction house should hope it hits that mark: sources indicated to ARTnews that the Ames estate was also pursued by Christie’s, and in order to secure it, Sotheby’s had to guarantee the estate for $100 million.
“This outstanding collection is exactly what the market is currently looking for, and as such we are very comfortable with the level of our guarantee,” Grégoire Billault, head of the contemporary art, told ARTnews in a statement.
Sotheby’s wouldn’t comment on beating out Christie’s for the sale, but Billault added that “we secured this collection as a result of our teamwork, with longstanding relationships between the couple and multiple people here at Sotheby’s, combined with our track record with Gerhard Richter, whose market we pioneered and continue to dominate.”
Indeed, the sale’s highlights include two works from Richter—A.B., Still (1986) and A.B., St. James (1988)—that both carry a low estimate of $20 million and a high estimate of $30 million. Other expected big sellers include George Baselitz’s Ein Stück Malerei (1966), Willem de Kooning’s Untitled (1976–77), Philip Guston’s Untitled (Smoking) (1979), and Anselm Kiefer’s Dein Aschenes Haar Sulamith (1981).
“Steven and Ann Ames collected with the same meticulous approach they applied to all their many and varied passions,” Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of the fine art division at Sotheby’s, said in a release. “The result is a group of paintings that stands as a testament to the possibilities of the medium that is at once intellectually rigorous and visually stunning.”
After a career as a partner at Oppenheimer & Co., as well as at the New York Stock Exchange, Steven Ames started collecting, along with his wife, to follow in the footsteps of his mother’s family, the Annenbergs—the prominent philanthropists who endowed the directorship position at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a fund at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, along with many other projects in the arts through the Annenberg Foundation. After nurturing a passion for collecting, Steven Ames completed a master’s in art history at Columbia and wrote his thesis on Richter.
He went on the serve of the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the collector’s committee of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and was a trustee of the Aperture Foundation and Independent Curators International. He died in March of this year.
The estate contains approximately 100 works, a Sotheby’s representative said. It is the first major estate the auction house has guaranteed since it placed a record $515 million bet on the estate of its former chairman, Alfred Taubman, in the fall of last year.