Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Walter and Phyllis Shorenstein Art Collection for Christie’s Auction

Christie’s will offer The Walter and Phyllis Shorenstein Collection as part of its major fall 2010 and spring 2011 sales in New York and Hong Kong.

Assembled over more than four decades by Walter Shorenstein, the San Francisco real estate mogul, and Phyllis Shorenstein, founder of the city’s Asian Art Museum, the collection unites the couple’s individual passions for Impressionist paintings and sculpture and fine Chinese glass, porcelain, jade and works of art. Over 170 items from this exceptional private collection will be offered across nine sale categories this fall and in the spring of 2011, beginning with Christie’s major Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York on November 3 and Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art in Hong Kong on December 1. The total value is expected to achieve in excess of US$24 million.

Laura Paulson, Deputy Chairman and International Director at Christie’s New York, comments: Christie’s is delighted to have been entrusted with the sale of this stellar collection, which brings together the best of Eastern and Western artistic traditions in one thoroughly modern cohesive whole. Both Walter and Phyllis Shorenstein were dedicated to art and connoisseurship, and Mrs. Shorenstein’s pioneering efforts in the field of Chinese glass in particular produced one of the best-known and most important collections of its type in America, if not in the Western World. As witnessed at our record-breaking spring sales of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York and Chinese Works of Art in Hong Kong, masterpiece-level works of this type continue to attract collectors from all over the world and drive exceptional results in our salerooms.”

Best-known as a titan of San Francisco real estate, a lead fundraiser for the Democratic Party, and one of America’s wealthiest men, the late Walter H. Shorenstein is famously quoted as saying “I arrived in San Francisco with no job, a pregnant wife and less than $1,000 to my name.” After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Shorenstein set about building a San Francisco real estate empire that by the mid-1980s had an estimated 10 million square feet of office and commercial real estate under management. His firm, the Shorenstein Company, developed many of the city’s most notable structures, including the landmark 52-story Bank of America building.

Throughout his life, Mr. Shorenstein was a steadfast supporter of the Democratic Party, and in 1997, he received the Democratic National Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Over the years, he served as an advisor to the administrations of presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. In 2009, just prior to his death at the age of 95, he was named to Forbes magazine’s list of the “400 Richest Americans” with an estimated net worth of US$1 billion.

Outside the world of business and politics, Mr. and Mrs. Shorenstein developed an enduring interest in Asian, European and American Art and set about acquiring some the best examples of works available at the time. Phyllis Shorenstein was a devoted collector of Japanese and Chinese works of art in particular, and had an unerring eye for exceptional quality and historical importance. Seeing a unique opportunity to develop San Francisco’s cultural heritage, Mrs. Shorenstein helped to found the city’s Asian Art Museum, which opened in Golden Gate Park in 1966. She served as a board member for many years and was one of the museum’s 27 commissioners at the time of her death in 1994.

Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Christie’s New York, November 3, 2010
Of the many excellent examples of Impressionist painting in the Shorenstein Collection, a stand-out is La Seine à Argentueil; estimate: $5-7 million) a magnificent 1882 work by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894). With its high-keyed color palette and dynamic compositional structure, this superb depiction of racing yachts on the Seine captures the essence of Impressionist technique and ranks among the finest of the artist’s many exquisite works. At the time of its painting, Caillebotte had traded the city streets of Paris for the idyllic landscapes of Argenteuil, where he could pursue his twin passions of painting and competitive sailing. The two sailboats at the center of the work, the red-hulled Inès and the bright yellow Condor, were both custom-built for Caillebotte, with the latter leading him to multiple victories in elite racing events.

In June of this year, a related work from the Argenteuil sailing series, La Seine à Argentueil, bateaux au mouillage, sold at Christie’s London for $4.8 million. Christie’s leads the market for exceptional works by Caillebotte, having set all of the top 15 prices for the artist’s work at auction, including the standing record of $14.3 million for Caillebotte’s 1880 Paris view L’homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann.

Additional Impressionist masterworks from the Shorenstein Collection include Camille Pissarro’s Enfants attablés dans le jardin à Eragny (estimate: $3-4 million), a harmonious late masterpiece depicting the artist’s three children against the sun-dappled backdrop of the great master’s garden at Eragny, and Georges Seurat’s Le Chemin creux (estimate: $1.8-2.5 million), an important early landscape that was formerly in the collection of R.A. Peto, one of England’s most distinguished collectors of Impressionist paintings.

Luminous Colours: Treasures from the Shorenstein Collection
Christie’s Hong Kong, December 1, 2010
Featuring 80 works valued in excess of US$10 million, the Shorenstein Collection is among the season’s most significant single owner sales of Chinese works of art. Amongst the splendid examples to be offered in Hong Kong on 1 December, the exceptional glass, porcelain and jade are particularly impressive.

A magnificent pink-enamelled blue and white Qianlong moonflask leads the porcelain offerings (estimate upon request). Decorated with phoenixes amongst flower scrolls in underglaze blue and overglaze pink enamel, it is a rare and superb example that is as a testament to the outstanding artistry and technical skill of the craftsmen employed at the imperial kilns. Each phoenix is exceptionally finely rendered, making this moonflask one of the most striking examples of the few porcelains known with this combination of colors and techniques. The pair of this vase is in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo.

Chinese glass production reached its highest point in the Qing dynasty, with spectacular glass vessels being made in the Imperial Glass Workshops during the reigns of the Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1736-1795) emperors. Phyllis Shorenstein’s collection of Chinese glass is among the most comprehensive in private hands, the majority of the examples date to the first half of the Qing dynasty. Leading the selection is a Qianlong ruby red glass phoenix-form ewer, an impressive piece that demonstrates the skilled combination of molding and carving (estimate: HK$2-3 million/US$260,000 – 390,000). Its relief-carved decoration and gilt-bronze handle combine in a most striking and innovative piece that will be among the collection’s most sought-after glass offerings.

Leading the highlights of important jade from the Shorenstein Collection is an exquisite imperial white jade conch shell (estimate HK$3.5-5 million/US$450,000 – 650,000). The Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors were devout Tibetan Buddhists, and this very fine carving known in Sanskrit as Sankha, represents one of the most commonly used ritual implements in Tibetan Buddhism as it conveys the imagery of the Transmission of Buddhist teachings. Given that white jade was among the most precious of materials at the time, and the fact that a significant amount of jade had to be cut away and discarded to achieve this shape, very few conch shell forms appear to have been made in jade and no other examples of this fine quality and large size appear to be recorded.

Additional highlights from the Shorenstein Collection will be featured in multiple sale categories later this fall and in spring 2011. A highlight of Christie’s Important American Paintings sale on December 1 in New York is Summer Morning, Giverny (estimate: $150,000-250,000), a lyrical work by Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925), an East Coast American Impressionist painter known as the “poet laureate of the New England hills.” On December 11, the Antiquities sale will offer an Apulian red-figure volute-krater, attributed to the Seated Woman Group, circa 340-320 B.C. (estimate:$20,000-30,000).

The Shorenstein Collection will also be offered during Christie’s New York spring Asian Art Week from March 22-24, featuring a variety of collecting categories – from magnificent examples of Imperial porcelain and jade of China, elegant and refined works of art from Japan, and superb sculptures from India and Southeast Asia. Leading the highlights of the collection of Chinese Works of Art is a crisply carved large stone head of Buddha, Wei dynasty, 6th century, from the Gong Xian Grotto of the Honan Province (estimate: $150,000-300,000). The collection offers a stunning section in Chinese jades such as the greenish-white jade bowl, cover and stand (estimate: $15,000-20,000) and a spinach green jade shallow marriage bowl of the Qing dynasty (estimate: $15,000-20,000). Additional highlights include a silver and gold leaf two-panel screen made by the Rimpa School of the 17th century (estimate: $50,000-70,000) offered in the Japanese Art sale and Mathura, a mottled red sandstone torso of a male deity, India, Kushan, 2nd century A.D. (estimate: $60,000-80,000) offered in the Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale.

Image: Gustave Caillebotte, La Seine à Argenteuil (detail), oil on canvas, 23 3/8 x 28 1/2 in. Painted in 1882. Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *