Internationally recognised as pre-eminent collectors of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Emily and Jerry Spiegel devoted the last 30 years of their lives to patronage of the arts. Their collection of paintings, sculpture and photography comprises more than 100 works and will be represented throughout Christie’s Evening and Day Sales of Post-War and Contemporary Art in May, as well as in a dedicated October Photographs Auction in New York.
From humble origins working on his uncle’s farm, Jerry Spiegel rose to become one of Long Island’s most enterprising real estate developers. When the Spiegels started collecting in the 1980s, they began to befriend many of the artists they collected. In addition to being early champions of artists such as Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Christopher Wool and Anselm Kiefer, the Spiegels amassed works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Man Ray, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and Francis Picabia. Anselm Kiefer’s Malen = Verbrennan, 1974 was their first major purchase.
‘My mother’s art journey was extraordinary,’ says the couple’s daughter, Pamela Sanders, a noted collector in her own right. ‘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. The joy my mother experienced in the art world every day of her life, and her curiosity about culture, prevailed until her last days.’
In addition to their Modern and Contemporary holdings, the collectors built an important collection of photographs, which included prime examples by Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Paul Outerbridge, Paul Strand and Diane Arbus.
‘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,’ says Alex Rotter, Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Art. ‘These works are just as poignant today — only now they are among the most sought-after examples of contemporary art in private hands.’
The Spiegels became unflagging supporters 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. The Spiegels and their eponymous foundation underwrote a range of exhibitions and donated a number of important works that now feature prominently in MoMA’s permanent collection. In 2001, the collectors gifted Warhol’s Silver Double Elvis (1963) in honour of their friend Kirk Varnedoe, who was chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA from 1988 to 2001.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Emily and Jerry Spiegel, 1988. © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Art + Commerce
Pamela Sanders oversaw the 2010 donation of her parents’ sizeable library of fine art books — several of which were given directly by artists — to the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. ‘My parents’ vision and generosity to artists and institutions have served as powerful examples of the importance of the need for collectors to give back to the art world,’ she says.
The sale of The Collection of Emily and Jerry Spiegel 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. In 1989 the curators of the Whitney Biennial selected two of Wool’s paintings to represent him: Untitled and Apocalypse Now. Both paintings were installed in the Whitney’s Madison Avenue location together with the work of another up-and-coming art wunderkind of the time, Jeff Koons, whose Pink Panther was placed directly opposite the present work.
Jeff Koons (b. 1955), New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker. Four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lighting, 82 x 52 x 28 in (208.3 x 132.1 x 71.1 cm). Estimate: $7,000,000-9,000,000. This lot is offered in Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 17 May 2017, at Christie’s in New York
Another highlight is Sigmar Polke’s Frau mit Butterbrot, an early masterpiece dating from the year of Polke’s first Rasterbilder, the ‘dot’ paintings that mimicked the halftone printing process of newspapers and magazines in a manner similar to Lichtenstein’s use of Benday dots. Frau mit Butterbrot is a rare work forming part of the critique of mass media culture that Polke and his fellow ‘Capitalist Realist’ painters — Gerhard Richter, Manfred Kuttner and Konrad Lueg — proposed in their radical exhibits of the early 1960s.
Also being offered is Francis Picabia’s Adam et Ève, 1941, which featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s recent retrospective of the artist. This striking painting belongs to a series that the artist began in the early 1930s. 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.
‘This sale is a testament to my mother’s extraordinary ability to change the discourse over her lifetime of collecting,’ says Pamela Sanders. ‘She was influential, risk-taking and, for me, these works represent a commitment of the purest level and highest quality. Now, the fruits of that commitment will be made available to the world to enjoy.’