At its contemporary-art auction, Christie’s is selling “master drawings from a private collection” that turns out to be Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld’s. The Fulds consigned the art late last summer, just weeks before the September 15 announcement by Lehman that it would file for bankruptcy. The sixteen works by artists like Willem de Kooning and Agnes Martin are valued at about $14 million to $20 million. Given the economic climate, in the past few weeks, Christie’s has been calling up contemporary-art sellers encouraging them to be willing to take less for their art, says Christie’s deputy chairman Brett Gorvy. Christie’s guaranteed a minimum amount to the Fulds and won’t say how much, but guarantees generally run about 75 percent. Sotheby’s also bid for the collection, and an insider there says the drawings are “gorgeous” but they valued it lower because “the Fuld name at this moment is not a selling point.”
The Fulds purchased most of the top works from Christie’s, Gagosian, and dealer Robert Mnuchin over the last decade, and one $2.5 million Barnett Newman they bought just last year. Christie’s is offering them just as the art market has turned sour. Last night, at Sotheby’s contemporary-art sale, only two out of three artworks sold, and the ones that did find buyers did so at bargain prices. (Designer Valentino, Eli Broad, Gap founder Don Fisher and Larry Gagosian all did some bidding.) There were no bids for some works by superstars like Roy Lichtenstein and Takashi Murakami. Kathy Fuld is a vice-chairman at the Museum of Modern Art, and some of the works being sold are ones that might have fit in well at the museum; one Arshille Gorky drawing is a study for a painting, Agony, that the Modern has in its own collection.