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Oct 6, 2014 12:30 PM

Billionaires' artworks headed to auction

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) Ninety modern and contemporary artworks, including a rare Mark Rothko painting, from the collection of the renowned art benefactors Pierre and Sao Schlumberger could realize $85 million at the fall art auctions next month.

"No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)" has never been auctioned before and was purchased by the Schlumbergers directly from Rothko's estate, Sotheby's said Monday.

The work "could easily achieve a price in excess of $50 million," said Oliver Barker, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe, calling it "among the finest examples of the artist's work remaining in private hands."

The painting was first exhibited in the seminal exhibition "15 Americans" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1952, a year after it was created. It has not been exhibited since a traveling retrospective of Rothko's work in 1971-72.

The current Rothko auction record is $86.8 million for "Orange, Red, Yellow."

Among other highlights is Andy Warhol's 1974 "A group of Four Portraits of Sao Schlumberger," estimated between $2 million and $3 million.

Both works are scheduled to be sold on Nov. 11.

The remaining works are being sold by the Schlumberger family during Sotheby's impressionist and modern and contemporary art day and evening sales on Nov. 4-5 and Nov. 11-12.

Schlumberger died in 1986; his wife passed away in 2007.

By the time Schlumberger married in 1961, the oil billionaire had already amassed important works by modern masters including Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard. His wife expanded the collection to include such contemporary artists as Rothko, Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Ad Reinhardt. The couple developed close personal relationships with many of the artists.

The Schlumbergers were central figures in New York and Parisian society who helped fund the restoration of Versailles. They were patrons of the Pompidou Center, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center in New York. They also were the first patrons to commission Warhol for a silkscreen portrait.

"Pierre and Sao Schlumberger belonged to one of the most important collecting dynasties of all time, but their vision was entirely their own: a unique aesthetic that blended their European roots with their American experience," said Barker.


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