The late Texas philanthropist Anne Marion, who accrued her $1.1 billion net worth by expanding her family’s oil and ranching empire, amassed an era-defining collection of American postwar art, and it will soon head to auction. “She had a great eye and she had no hesitation when she saw something that she liked,” Marla Price, the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art director of 30 years, recently told ARTnews. “She understood immediately when something was great or important.”
One of the country’s top arts patrons, Marion is remembered principally for her role in founding the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the 1990s, together with her husband, John Marion, a former Sotheby’s chairman and the house’s top auctioneer for decades. A longtime supporter of the Kimbell Art Museum, Marion was also the primary backer of a $65 million expansion of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
[How Anne Marion’s collection tells the story of a vision and aesthetic deeply rooted in the American tradition.]
The couple’s collection included works by blue-chip American postwar artists such as Andy Warhol, Clyfford Still, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Motherwell, and Kennth Noland, as well as those by Old Masters. When its lots are auctioned by Sotheby’s New York this spring, the collection is expected to fetch a collective $150 million at Sotheby’s. Below, some highlights from the Anne Marion collection.
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Girl with Beach Ball II,’ 1977.
This five-foot-tall painting has Lichtenstein reprising, in his 1970s Surrealist mode, his iconic earlier Girl with a Beach Ball from 1961 that is now held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Shortly after he completed the 1977 version, it was included in the sixth edition of Documenta, the prestigious quinquennial art festival in Kassel, Germany. It’s estimated to sell at Sotheby’s for $12–$18 million.
Clyfford Still, PH-125 (1948-No. 1), 1948.
Anne Marion acquired this painting in 1982. The painting was included in Still’s 1969 survey exhibition at New York’s Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, his first show in the city in almost two decades. The year 1948, when the painting was completed, was when Still entered what Patrick McCaughey in Artforum called his “more radically abstract mode.” After Marion purchased it, she hung it in the entrance hall to the I.M. Pei–designed home she inherited from her mother. It’s estimated to sell at Sotheby’s for $25–$35 million.
Andy Warhol, ‘Elvis 2 Times’, 1963.
As opposed to Warhol’s better known “Ferus Type” Double Elvises—the 22 silkscreen versions he made in 1963 for his show at Los Angeles’s Ferus gallery, half of which are now in museum collections—this “Studio Type” is hand-painted. A “Ferus Type” sold three years ago at Christie’s for $37 million, and Sotheby’s has estimated this version to sell for $20–$30 million.
Wayne Thiebaud, ‘City Downgrade,’ 2001.
Best known for his paintings of cakes and pastries, Thiebaud has also long been a student of the landscape in and around San Francisco. Anne Marion picked up this vertiginous view of a San Francisco street at Christie’s New York, for $4 million. Sotheby’s has now put the estimate in a similar range, $3–4 million.
Robert Motherwell, ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 79,’ 1962.
Motherwell liked this painting so much that he got it back, through an exchange, from collector Gifford Phillips, nephew of Phillips Collection founder Duncah Phillips. Anne Marion bought the painting in 1989, shortly before Motherwell’s death. In her I.M. Pei–designed home in Texas, Marion hung it in a foyer off the entrance hall, in the midst of a marble-topped console from the 18th century, a Gabonese wood-and-metalwork reliquary figure, and a hollow wooden head from the Tabar Islands. Sotheby’s has it estimated to sell for $4–6 million.
Richard Diebenkorn, ‘Ocean Park No. 40,’ 1971
Marion bought Diebenkorn’s nearly eight-foot-tall Ocean Park No. 40 at Sotheby’s New York in May 1990 for $1.76 million, nearly doubling its pre-sale estimate and setting a new auction record for the artist at the time. Sotheby’s now has it estimated at $20–30 million.
Kenneth Noland, ‘Rocker,’ 1958.
Noland is known for his “target” paintings, and this is one of the earliest of them. Similar paintings are in the collections of the Whitney Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Sotheby’s now has it estimated at $2–3 million.
Franz Kline, ‘Mister,’ 1959.
In her home, Marion displayed this dynamic Franz Kline (estimated to sell at Sotheby’s for $15–20 million) surrounded by African sculptures from Gabon and Zaire. It has a top-notch provenance. She bought it from the legendary Allan Stone gallery in 1983—no other owner is listed.
Gerhard Richter, ‘Abstraktes Bild,’ 1992
Marion bought this hot-red six-and-a-half-foot-tall Richter, at Sotheby’s in May 2012, for $17 million, at a time when Richter’s prices were skyrocketing. This time around, Sotheby’s estimates it will sell in the same range, $14–18 million.
Richard Diebenkorn, ‘Woman with Hat and Gloves,; 1963
Another great Diebenkorn that Marion owned is Woman with Hat and Gloves, acquired the year it was completed by Mary Heath Keesling, a champion of Bay Area artists and a supporter of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Keesling put it up for sale at Sotheby’s New York in November 1989, when Anne Marion bought it for $880,000. Sotheby’s estimated it will sell this year for $4–6 million.