Please note that a party with a financial interest may be bidding on Lots 1 through 16.
Robert S. Olnick and his wife, Sylvia Nadel Olnick, were passionately committed to culture and community. Whether in New York, Palm Beach or Israel, the couple devoted themselves to the promotion of the public good, building a business and philanthropic network that changed countless lives. The Olnicks’ significant collection of fine art embodies the vibrant vision of these two tremendous spirits.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Robert S. Olnick graduated from New York University and Columbia University Law School, where he edited the Columbia Law Review. During the Second World War, Mr. Olnick served with distinction in the United States Navy as a landing boat commander on the SS Wayne, where he saw six combat invasions. He returned to New York in 1945 to embark on what would become a prodigious real estate career. Robert Olnick saw potential in transforming areas of his native New York that had been overlooked by other developers, including Harlem and the Bronx. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, Mr. Olnick rose to become one of the city’s most prominent figures in housing and real estate, overseeing major developments and urban renewal initiatives such as the Knolls in the Bronx, Lenox Terrace in Harlem, the Excelsior on Manhattan’s 57th Street, and other important buildings in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, and California. The recipient of New York University’s Alumni Achievement Award and a trustee of the university’s School of Continuing Education, Robert Olnick was chief executive officer and chairman of the real estate development firm Starrett Housing Corporation, developers of the Empire State Building; founder of the eponymous Olnick Organization; and a founding partner at the law firm Olnick Boxer Blumberg Lane & Troy.
Sylvia Nadel Olnick was also born in New York City and graduated from New York University. Known for her elegance, intelligence and worldly glamour, she and her husband Robert found inspiration in each other and were beloved partners in philanthropy and collecting. They travelled often and also found inspiration and joy in their time abroad.
Sylvia Olnick was also utterly devoted to her family. From international travels with daughters Barbara and Nancy to dinners at the Four Seasons Restaurant with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren—a cherished tradition before their departure for summer camp—Mrs. Olnick made an indelible mark across generations.
It was a heartfelt way of living that the Olnicks also brought to the public sphere: across their many years together, the couple were notable yet unassuming charitable patrons of cultural, educational, and Jewish causes. Following her husband’s death in 1986, Mrs. Olnick only became more ardent in her giving, supporting initiatives in New York, Palm Beach, and beyond. At the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, she established the Robert S. Olnick Case Development Fund, bridging the law and real estate fields to which her husband had contributed so greatly. Mrs. Olnick was an especially ardent supporter of the American Friends of the Israel Museum, where she sat on the board of trustees, served as honorary chairman, and founded the Palm Beach Friends of the Israel Museum. A member of the American Jewish Committee Women’s Leadership Board, Mrs. Olnick was honored by the organization in 2003 for her unwavering leadership and advocacy.
Robert and Sylvia Olnick possessed a profound love for art and culture, one that culminated in a noteworthy collection of works by important Modern and Contemporary artists. The Olnick residences in New York and Palm Beach were home to paintings, drawings and sculptures by master artists such as Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Alexander Calder, Hans Hofmann, Robert Rauschenberg, and Willem de Kooning. Through visits to museums, galleries, and simply living each day with art, the couple passed on their passion to their daughters, Barbara Lane and Nancy Olnick. Internationally recognized collectors and arts benefactors in their own right, Barbara and Nancy continue to further their parents’ vision in creativity and philanthropy. Nancy Olnick’s passion for Italian art and design led her and her husband, Giorgio Spanu, to found Magazzino of Italian Art (MIA)—a 20,000 square-foot space designed by Miguel Garcia Quismondo that will feature their permanent collection of Italian art, as well as rotating exhibitions—in Garrison, New York. Barbara Lane and her husband, Rick, became devoted proponents of Pop Art, and continue to collect both classic Pop Art and more recent work by artists working with found imagery and popular culture.
In later years, both Barbara and Nancy also inspired their mother, and introduced her to a new generation of cutting-edge contemporary artists, many who used photo-based imagery. Always modern and open to new experiences, Sylvia Olnick happily expanded her collection to include works by Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Vik Muniz, Richard Prince and Michelangelo Pistoletto, among others.
In community, philanthropy, and art, building came naturally to Robert and Sylvia Olnick, committed patrons of a better world. Their love of art and the arts is an affirmation of the Olnicks’ belief in fostering inspiration and imagination—a legacy truly worthy of celebration.
THE COLLECTION OF ROBERT AND SYLVIA OLNICK
Cf. F. Cailles, René Boivin: Jeweler, Paris, Éditions de l’Amateur, 1994, p. 239