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From November, Sotheby’s New York will auction off hundreds of contemporary works from the collection of Chara Schreyer, the late California art scene fixture and San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMoMA) trustee. Specialists said the collection is estimated to sell in excess of $70m, across a number of sales that will last into next year.
Schreyer’s collection will be led by Frank Stella’s Honduras Lottery Co. (1962), among the earliest examples of the artist’s Concentric Square paintings. With an estimate from $10m to $15m, it is one of only six editions from the series that Stella executed in the 1960s, of which half are in museum collections, according to Sotheby’s.
A large-scale platform sculpture by Donald Judd is expected to fetch $7m to $10m. According to Sotheby’s, the untitled work from 1969 inspired Schreyer to purchase a Los Angeles home specifically to house the sculpture. Schreyer hired the same craftsman who fabricated the work for Judd to approve the installation in her home and polish it upon completion, according to Sotheby’s.
The collection also includes a rare 1942 example of Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-Valise, or box in a suitcase. Filled with 69 miniature reproductions of Duchamp’s work, the artist referred to the assemblage as “his portable museum” and designed the suitcase to open in stages and present a small-scale view of his career. The edition had previously been owned by Andy Warhol, Sotheby’s says, and is estimated at between $1.8m and $2.5m.
Born in Germany after the Second World War to Holocaust survivors who later relocated to California and made a fortune in real estate, Schreyer began building her art collection in the 1970s with work by artists associated with the American Modernism movement, like Georgia O’Keeffe, Joseph Stella and Stuart Davis. By the 1990s, Schreyer had leaned into seriously collecting work by artists she said were “making strange,” or changing audience perceptions by “making the familiar strange and the strange familiar”, according to Sotheby’s, a concept borrowed from Russian literary critic Viktor Shklovsky. The bulk of her collection went on to be made up of work by artists like Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys and Louise Bourgeois.
To house her vast art collection, Schreyer redesigned and expanded her five California homes into gallery-like spaces that were equipped to display art rarely found in residences, like video art, large sculptures and neon art (In June, Schreyer’s San Francisco pied-à-terre hit the market for $4.9m). Schreyer gave hundreds of tours of her homes to university students, cultural associations and museum boards, according to Sotheby’s.
Besides SFMoMA, Schreyer was a patron and trustee of a number of major art institutions in California, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum, both in Los Angeles. Schreyer died in February.
Lots from the collection will be first be offered during Sotheby’s day and evening contemporary sales in November, and in then in auctions throughout 2024. Highlights will go on display at Sotheby’s showrooms in Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles before returning to New York for an exhibition opening on 1 November prior to the autumn sales.