Christie's to offer Visionaries: Works from the Emily and Jerry Spiegel Collection

3_spiegel2.pngNew York - Christie’s is honored to have been entrusted with Visionaries: Works from the Emily and Jerry Spiegel Collection. The Spiegels were internationally recognized as vanguard collectors of Post-War and Contemporary Art, who devoted the last thirty years of their lives to the patronage of and philanthropy to the arts. The Spiegels’ legendary collection of painting, sculpture, and photography comprises over 100 works, and will represent the first 26 lots of the Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York on May 17. Additional works will be included throughout the Day sales and in a dedicated auction of photography, which will take place in New York this October. Together, the collection is expected to realize in excess of $100 million. Highlights will be on view at Christie’s London April 6-11.

Alex Rotter, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked “The Collection of Emily and Jerry Spiegel is one of the great examples of visionary collecting in Post-War America. The Spiegels bought Wool, Sherman, Koons, Polke and Kiefer when very few collectors had the guts to do so, and acquired works that were considered incredibly radical and fierce at the time. As a testament to their foresight, these works are just as poignant today - only now they are among the most sought after examples of contemporary art in private hands. However, the Spiegels didn’t restrict their collecting to new artists. They successfully combined threads of Pop, Minimalism and photography with cutting edge contemporary to form a collection that conveyed a deep representation of post-war art.”

From humble origins working on his uncle’s Long Island farm, Jerry Spiegel rose to become one of Long Island’s most enterprising real estate developers. Sharing Mr. Spiegel’s passion for visionary thinking was his beloved wife, Emily—a singular spirit renowned for her vivacity, intelligence, and dedication to art.

Emily and Jerry Spiegel’s daughter, Pamela Sanders, a noted collector in her own right, remarked: “My mother’s art journey was extraordinary and became legendary; her deep passion for the works she collected and the artists she befriended culminated in a highly cohesive collection of American and European fine art. Paintings and photography found a home on her walls, and together they tell a story that transcends a moment in time. Her legacy was one of connoisseurship, purity and refinement. The joy my mother experienced in the art world everyday of her life, and her curiosity about culture, prevailed until her last days and that is how I will always remember her.”

When the Spiegels began collecting in the 1980’s, they did so with a vengeance. They lived and breathed the art that they saw and studied, and befriended many of the artists that they collected.  In addition to being early proponents of artists such as Polke, Richter, Wool and Kiefer, the Spiegels championed an ambitiously diverse group of artists ranging from Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol to Francis Picabia, and from Man Ray to Cindy Sherman. The Spiegel Collection reflects an extraordinary commitment to the seminal gestures by the artist’s they collected.

As early proponents of artists such as Kiefer, Polke, Richter and Wool, the Spiegels were able to amass an extraordinary grouping of Post-War and Contemporary painting, sculpture, and photography. Anselm Kiefer’s Malen = Verbrennan, 1974 was their first major purchase.

In addition to their Modern and Contemporary holdings, the collectors built an important collection of Photographs with prime examples by Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Paul Outerbridge, and Paul Strand and Diane Arbus.

Emily and Jerry Spiegel sought to share their deep love for art and culture with the community, and became tireless backers of museums and cultural institutions in New York, Long Island, and beyond. They were particularly ardent supporters of the Museum of Modern Art, where Mrs. Spiegel served as a trustee and member of the Painting and Sculpture Committee. In 2001, the collectors gifted Warhol’s Silver Double Elvis (1963) in honor of friend Kirk Varnedoe. Through the years, the Spiegels and their eponymous foundation underwrote a wide range of exhibitions for the museum, and donated a number of important works that now factor prominently into MoMA’s permanent collection.

Today, Pamela Sanders perpetuates the Sanders’ legacy in the arts. In 2010 she oversaw the donation of Emily and Jerry Spiegel’s sizable library of fine art books, several of which were given directly to the Spiegels by artists, to the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. “My parents’ vision, aesthetic focus, and generosity to artists and institutions alike,” Sanders said, “have served as powerful examples of both the importance of expertise and the need for collectors to give back to the art world.

The Collection of Emily and Jerry Spiegel is the inspiring creation of two remarkably visionary collectors—a joyful collaboration in art and spirit.

The sale is led by a landmark painting by Christopher Wool. Painted in 1988, Wool’s Untitled is a brilliant, early iteration of the critically-acclaimed word-based paintings that remain the most gripping, highly-coveted objects of the artist’s career. The insistent refrain “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE” personifies the explosive utterings of the soulful James Brown song of the same name. The word “PLEASE” remains one of Wool’s most enigmatic personal phrases. It appears in an early paper version in 1987, and again two years later, in a nearly identical painting of 1989 with matching dimensions (owned by The Broad, Los Angeles).

In 1989, the curators of the Whitney Biennial selected two of Wool’s paintings to represent him. They chose the present work and Apocalypse Now. Both paintings were installed in the Whitney’s Madison Avenue location with another up-and-coming art wunderkind—Jeff Koons—whose Pink Panther was placed directly opposite the present work. At the time, New York Times critic Roberta Smith singled out Wool’s word paintings and illustrated his work in her review, writing: “Christopher Wool’s punchy word-images...have a refreshing visual toughness” (R. Smith, “Review/Art: More Women and Unknowns in the Whitney Biennial,” The New York Times, 28 April 1989, p. C32).

Also highlighting the selection is Sigmar Polke’s Frau mit Butterbrot, 1964. An early iconic masterpiece, the present canvas dates from the year of Polke’s first Rasterbilder, the ubiquitous raster-dot paintings that mimicked the halftone printing process of newspapers and magazines. Frau mit Butterbrot is a rare, formative work that demonstrates the scathing critique of mass media culture that Polke and his fellow “Capitalist Realist” painters, Gerhard Richter, Manfred Kuttnerand Konrad Lueg proposed in their radical exhibits of the early 60s. Its biting critique of bourgeois norms and the meticulous, time-consuming nature of its large-scale execution make Frau mit Butterbrot one of the most significant paintings of Polke’s early career. Both charming vixen and proper hausfrau, Polke’s cunning, perfectly-coiffed subject is the wholesome German counterpart to Lichtenstein’s comic-book heroines and Warhol’s starlets. Created at a critical, early juncture, Frau mit Butterbrot slyly demonstrates the significant themes that would sustain the artist for the duration of his prolific career.

Francis Picabia’s Adam et Ève, 1941, highlights the Modern works acquired by the Spiegels, and was recently featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2016-2017 retrospective of the artist’s expansive career. This striking canvas belongs to a series of paintings that the artist began in the early 1930s. The appropriation of mass media had been a central part of the artist’s oeuvre since World War I. Long before Rauschenberg, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Koons embraced appropriation, Francis Picabia wryly played with the concepts of artistic authorship and individual skill that were to become among the central doctrines of modern painting. His defiantly anti-modernist style demonstrates his lifelong and unremitting predilection for overturning conventions of the avant-garde and pursuing new and radical approaches to art and art making, which paved the way for future generations of artists.  

Image: SIGMAR POLKE, Frau mit Butterbrot, Dispersion on canvas, 1964

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