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(Bloomberg) — Just months after their Westchester sculpture park went on the market, top art collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin have announced that they are selling off nearly all of their art collection by more of a thousand pieces. “Basically, we sell everything,” Joel says in an interview. “It takes away, to some extent, the worry of, ‘Should we sell this one or that one?'”

The art – by volume, one of the largest collections to be auctioned – will be sold at Sotheby’s with an overall estimate exceeding $50 million. The pieces will be spread over several auctions in London and New York this year; other sales, including a dedicated auction of monumental sculptures, will take place in 2023 and 2024.

The couple have been a major force in the contemporary art scene for decades, slowly accumulating tremendous works of 20th and 21st century art for display at their estate, Buckhorn Sculpture Park, in Pound Ridge, NY.

In addition to the approximately 70 outdoor sculptures on the property, the Mallins displayed their extensive collection in a 9,200 square foot museum-quality space they called an “art barn.” The barn was redone every two years “from top to bottom,” Sherry says. “So we’ve had the experience of things being suppressed.”

How to sell 1000 works of art

The decision to sell their collection, Sherry says, is a practical decision. They have donated many works to museums over the years, but don’t like the idea of ​​giving the entire collection to a museum, where “it will go into a basement and no one will see the artists work” , said Sherry.

They considered turning their sculpture park into a foundation, but “there were many factors against it,” she says. “The first is that you have to fund it extremely heavily for the city to consider it, but in our case most of our wealth is in our art.” So, she continues, “to endow it, we would have to sell the art, and then we would have nothing more to endow. So it didn’t seem like a good idea.

They decided to simply sell it, using former auction house veteran Francis Outred as an adviser. “He approached both Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and each gave outstanding presentations,” says Sherry. “Each one was interesting and highly commendable, and I guess we picked the one that approached it from the most comprehensive business perspective, in terms of taking care of the entire collection from start to finish on A long period.”

It wasn’t that they cared about their most expensive lots. “Every auction house knows how to handle the best pieces,” says Sherry. ” It’s not difficult ; the best bits handle themselves. That’s what you do with the rest of the collection, which is really nice but not exceptional.

Top prizes

So what do they think of Sotheby’s valuations?

“It was all too little,” Sherry said, half-jokingly. “Each of my children is perfect and each of my works of art is fantastic.”

His theory will be tested very soon. The first installment of works will go on sale at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art sales in London this month. Bronzefrau Nr.11 (Bronze Woman No. 11) by Thomas Schütte, from 2002, carries an estimate of 2-3 million pounds ($2.3-3.4 million) and will be auctioned on October 14.

On the same day, the totemic sculpture of the couple by Louise Bourgeois, Listening One from 1981, will go on sale with an estimate of £1.3m to £1.8m. Other top lots include an Infinity Net painting by Yayoi Kusama from 2010, which carries an estimate of £1.8-2.5 million; Sean Scully’s Wall of Light Red, 1998, estimated between £800,000 and £1.1 million; and a collection of works by the group known as the YBAs (Young British Artists), including pieces by Damien Hirst and Ron Mueck.

Next month at the major evening contemporary auctions in New York they will sell a Robert Gober work from 1993 to 1994, estimated between $6 and $8 million, and a Robert Irwin work from 1965 to 1967, making part of his suite of works known as “The Discs”, which carries an estimate of $3-4 million.

wait and watch

Despite these exorbitant prices, Joel has a word of warning for anyone buying art purely for financial gain. “Don’t think of art as an investment,” he says. “It’s probably the worst investment you can make.”

Sherry clarifies that she would like to “change this statement”. It’s not the worst investment, she says; it’s just “not a good investment or a safe investment, ever. Nobody knows, in 50 years, which artists today will bring in the most money.

Art going to auction in London has already been removed from the walls, but the couple remain relatively optimistic. They plan to attend the New York sales in November. “I think it will be bittersweet,” Sherry says.

Joel, for his part, withholds judgment. “I don’t think I’ll know how I feel about it before the sale,” he says.

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