Christie's Unveils Major Single-Owner Sale for May

Jerry Fineberg’s extraordinary $270m collection will sell at Christie's 

Gerhard Richter, Badende (1967) estimated at $15 million

As a generation of art collectors passes, the frequency of single-owner Evening sales to highlight their provenance and collecting eye also seems to be increasing. Not every owner amasses a billion-dollar collection brimming with eight and nine figure works as Paul Allen did. But that’s also not really where the art market is right now. Individuals and institutions are playing catch up with wide range of artists and movements that remain under-represented. 

Into that environment, Christie’s has announced that it will sell the $270 million Gerald Fineberg collection in a single-owner Evening sale this May as well as a part two day sale with additional sales in the Fall. Fineberg was a voracious collector. That $270 million sum is composed of dozens and dozens of objects that are now quite sought after by advisors, curators and collectors. 

"Jerry built a collection that challenged norms,” says Sara Friedlander, Christie's Deputy Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art. “He bought art like a curator. He was able to buy works from key movements. He collected all of the ‘Ninth Street Women’ artists; went deep into the artists at Black Mountain College; and had key examples of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Gutai, Pop, Minimalism, the Picture's Generation and Arte Povera.”

The headline works in the May Evening sale are by Gerhard Richter, Pablo Picasso and Christopher Wool. But the market will be alert to extraordinary examples by Man Ray, Barkley Hendricks, Alice Neel and Ruth Asawa. Deeper in the sale are works by Beaufort Delaney, Alma Thomas, Yayoi Kusama, Betty Sayre, John Wesley and many other artists. 

A Eye for an Opportunity

Christopher Wool, UntitledChristopher Wool, Untitled (1993) estimated at $15 million

Gerald Fineberg, who died in December of 2022, was one of a generation of art collectors who were real estate developers. In Fineberg’s case, Boston was the city he invested in as both a builder and a community member. A member of the boards of the Rose Museum at Brandeis and the ICA, Boston.

Fineberg was also a collector who bought mostly out of the spotlight. When he did buy at auction, it was often with a savvy eye for an opportunity. Take the Barkley Hendricks work Stanley painted in 1971. Christie’s will offer it with a $5 million estimate making it the most expensive Hendricks to sell at auction. Three years ago, the auction record for Hendricks was set at $4 million; however, there are reports from the private market of sales for as much as $14 million. Fineberg’s example fits into the category of prized Hendricks portraits. But these works weren’t always appreciated. During Hendricks’ lifetime, Stanley was on offer at Chicago auction house Wright in 2013 for $200,000 but there was no buyer. Fineberg wound up with the work and it already looks like a huge steal.Barkley Hendricks. StanleyBarkley L. Hendricks, Stanley (1971) estimated at $5 million

Another work that Fineberg likely bought at a Wright auction is Ruth Asawa’s untitled hanging sculpture. It sold in 2015 for $905,000. Christie’s estimates the work now at $3.5 million based upon the sales of three similar works since 2019 at that level and above. Picasso, Buste dhomme lauréPicasso, Buste d’homme lauré (1969) estimated at $9 million

Fineberg’s eye for a bargain didn’t only apply to under-valued artists. Christie’s will sell Pablo Picasso’s Buste d’homme lauré from 1969, that was sold at auction in Hong Kong in 2018 for $7.7 million. These late works became popular in the last two decades with Contemporary art collectors. This example had been in Picasso’s estate and owned by his son Bernard Ruiz Picasso before passing to the legendary dealer Heinz Berggruen. The work had first been offered in New York in 2016 by the collector who bought it from Berggruen. It failed to find a buyer at an $8 million estimate. Fineberg paid slightly under that with fees two years later. Since then, examples from this same year have sold for as much as $22 million. Alice Neel, Pregnant Betty HomitzkyAlice Neel, Pregnant Betty Homitzky (1968) estimated at $1.5 million

At the top of the value pyramid, Christie’s has highlighted a handful of works including Gerhard Richter’s Badende from 1967 estimated at $15 million; Christopher Wool’s untitled multi-color example of one of his most famous word paintings from 1993 at $15 million; Alice Neel’s Pregnant Betty Homitzky from 1968 at $1.5 million and Man Ray’s portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse from 1923 for $1 million.

Man Ray, Portrait de Kiki

Man Ray, Portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse (1923) estimated at $1 million

The Evening sale will include 60 works from 58 artists and the day sale will have another 150 works from 114 different artists.   

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