Acquired over a period of 30 years, Andrew and Edita Sporer’s collection of Himalayan sculpture reflects the couple’s international lifestyle, passion for the field and appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
A rare and important gilt bronze figure of Shiva Vinadhara and Parvati. Nepal, 12th/13th century, 7 1/4 in. (18.5 cm.) high. Estimate: US$600,000–800,000. This and the below works will be offered in our sale The Sporer Collection of Himalayan Sculpture on 15 September at Christie’s New York
Both Andrew and Edita were born in pre-war Eastern Europe when it was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Edita in what was known as Moravia and Andrew in Hungary. They were immensely accomplished individuals: Andrew spoke five languages and received his M.D. from universities in both Hungary and France. He became a notable urologist and surgeon, lecturing throughout the US and teaching at renowned institutions including the University of Bologna in Italy and Medico Kabul in Afghanistan.
His wife Edita’s achievements were no less prestigious. She studied at universities in both Prague and Bratislava to become an anesthesiologist and was one of the first women from outside the US to be admitted to Harvard University’s Massachusetts General Hospital for postgraduate training. In 1947, Edita became a Diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology. In her 50 years of medical practice, she never once lost a patient.
Edita and Andrew met while conducting a surgery in an operating room in New York City. They both pursued careers in medicine but ultimately devoted their lives to art, travel and cultural exploration.
Drs Andrew and Edita Sporer
Edita and Andrew’s appreciation of Himalayan sculpture stemmed from their experiences prior to their life together in the US. Before medical school, Edita dreamed of becoming an artist. Her father worked as a restorer who specialised in antiques and museum-quality decorative arts and furniture. He convinced Edita to attend medical school back in Czechoslovakia, but her passion for artistry and beauty would continue to express itself, whether through her art collection or hand-sewn evening gowns created from fabric she purchased in India. Edita made art throughout her life and was talented in a variety of media including ink and watercolour.
A parcel-gilt silver figure of Shadakshari Avalokiteshvara. Tibet, 16th century, 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) high. Estimate: US$600,000–800,000
As a young man, Andrew travelled extensively. He spent his summers while at university in France working as a doctor on boats sailing to Northern Africa. The connections he made on these boat trips took him to Siam. Andrew remained in Asia for a time, eventually becoming the Director of Surgery for the International Committee of the Red Cross: he was stationed in Southern China for three years in this role.
Throughout this period of his life, Andrew would fly over the Himalayas to explore different regions of India. These journeys, along with stories of Tibet he heard while living in China, instilled in him a fascination with the mountainous land between China and India. Edita too fell in love with India and visited Nepal on her first trip to the subcontinent — the first of many. The Sporers were among the first foreigners to visit Bhutan, which they reached on horseback.
A gilt bronze figure of Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali. Tibet, 16th century, 10 7/8 in. (27.8 cm.) high. Estimate: US$400,000–600,000
Travel was an integral part of family life for the Sporers. Every summer the couple and their daughter would spend six weeks immersing themselves in whatever culture they chose to surround themselves with. In each place they visited, they sought out operas, ballets, galleries and museums, making friends with creative types from around the world. The couple befriended the Gabor family and travelled to remote places such as India and Kenya with Albert Rothschild.
The Sporers thrived in such elite social circles. They knew conductor Erich Leinsdorf, American social realist painters Walt Kuhn and Thomas Hart Benton and the Director of the National Museum in New Delhi, L.P. Sihare. The Sporers embraced the eccentricities of this vibrant scene and became part of the international artistic community.
A gilt bronze figure of Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini. Nepal, 15th century, 9 1/5 in. (24 cm.) high. Estimate: US$300,000–500,000
The Sporers began collecting Himalayan sculpture in the early 1960s. They specifically chose to acquire Himalayan art because of its beautiful aesthetic and economic attainability and the austere elegance and fine workmanship of the pieces.
Edita and Andrew avidly researched Himalayan art, reading every book they could find on the subject in order to become better informed. As the couple’s collection grew, their tastes developed, and they bought sculptures imbued with personal meaning that would subsequently enhance the collection as a whole.
‘Edita and Andrew’s daughter recalls celebrating a successful purchase by eating ice cream on the terrace with her parents.’
These pieces were mainly acquired in New York City. Andrew would visit Albert Rudolph’s apartment, seeking out Himalayan bronzes. Rudi, as he was more commonly known, was a spiritual teacher who owned Rudi Oriental Art in the East Village. He did not often display his bronzes but would bring them out of his storerooms to present to Andrew. A seemingly choreographed negotiation would then ensue.
Andrew loved to negotiate and debate; it was part of his character. Eleanor Olson, the first curator of Asian art at the Newark Museum in New Jersey, would come to the Sporer’s dinner parties to discuss and frequently argue with Andrew about Himalayan bronzes and culture and the ethics of collecting. Despite their occasionally contentious conversations, Eleanor was a close friend of the Sporers and featured many works from their collection in her 1974 exhibition Tantric Buddhist Art at the China Institute in New York.
A gilt bronze figure of Mahakala Panjarnata. Tibeto-Chinese, 16th century, 9 1/8 in. (23 cm.) high. Estimate: US$200,000–300,000
The family visited the galleries of Doris Wiener and J.J. Klejman as a Saturday ritual, becoming not only clients but also friends of the gallery owners. Edita and Andrew’s daughter recalls celebrating a successful purchase by eating ice cream on the terrace with her parents. She remembers her father gazing at a single sculpture for hours on end, admiring its intricacies and considering its position within the broader context of Himalayan art. Once acquired, these treasures remained a relevant part of the Sporers’ lives and were prominently displayed around their home.
The Sporer Collection of Himalayan Sculpture is not an assembly of artistic objects but an experience in and of itself that reflects Andrew and Edita’s lives and embodies their passions. It is the result of a relationship between a family and a place, a dialogue that weaves together history and exceptional craftsmanship.