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Unveiling the Collection of Edward Albee / 100+ Lots to be Offered 26 September in NY

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    Unveiling the Collection of Edward Albee / 100+ Lots to be Offered 26 September in NY

NEW YORK, 24 August 2017 – Today Sotheby's unveils the full contents of The Collection of Edward Albee, which we are honored to offer in a dedicated auction in New York on 26 September 2017.

Acquired across decades, the 100+ works on offer surrounded Albee in the Tribeca loft he lived in for over 30 years. Together, they demonstrate the artist's great passion for collecting and provide unique insight into his creative vision. The highly-personal group spans the 20th century with a focus on – in Albee's words – “art that is about art”, featuring American, Modern and Contemporary art alongside a selection of African & Oceanic sculpture (Edward Albee, A Playwright’s Adventure in the Visual Arts).*

The September auction will be preceded by a public exhibition in Sotheby's York Avenue galleries, opening 20 September. Here visitors will discover standout pieces by Jean Arp, Milton Avery, Marc Chagall, Lee Krasner and John McLaughlin, sparking the same visual and conceptual dialogues between works that Albee encouraged in his everyday living with the collection. With a significant selection of works estimated under $5,000, this auction marks a singular opportunity for both new and established collectors drawn to his considerable legacy.

The full proceeds of the sale will benefit The Edward F. Albee Foundation, which provides residencies for writers and visual artists in Montauk, Long Island.

“As I think about my tastes in music and the visual arts I suspect it all is a piece with my playwriting – that how I ‘see’ and how I ‘hear’ determines how I think, and that determines how I write, and that, of course, determines who I am.” — Edward Albee, A Playwright’s Adventure in the Visual Arts —

The name Edward Albee immediately conjures associations with theater and American literature. As a three-time Tony Award winner, three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Award for Drama, and one of the cultural tastemakers of the 20th and 21st centuries, his iconic plays including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Three Tall Women, and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? transformed the landscape of post-war theater in the United States and beyond.

And yet, Albee’s influence and keen observation of modern life extended beyond the confines of theater – for those who knew him well, and those who had the pleasure of his mentorship, Albee also advanced the visual arts. Through his commentary and support of young artists – who he described as individuals “who stand at the edge of the cliff, look over, assume they can fly, jump, and very often, discover that they are right” – he left a significant legacy (Edward Albee, A Playwright’s Adventure in the Arts). A number of the artists he championed, officially at The Edward F. Albee Foundation in Montauk and unofficially in his collecting, are represented in his personal collection.

As an 'accumulator' of works of art, Edward Albee had a particular vision. In his own words: “my taste in the visual arts tends to run to the nondecorative, the tough rather than the simply pleasing, the abstract rather than the pictorial, and I am drawn to that art which is about art – the Cubists, the Constructivists, the Bauhaus, Duchamp, Bueys, the Abstract Expressionists, and constantly, to the young artists” (Edward Albee, A Playwright’s Adventure in the Arts). The works being offered at Sotheby’s this September stay true to this mantra.

Remembering Edward Albee with Sally Field and Kathleen Turner

On viewing, appreciating and collecting art, Edward Albee focused on context and dialogue. In his own words: “there is something that makes something art…It doesn’t have anything to do with anything except the piece itself is art in context” (Edward Albee, Context is All). The works displayed in his Tribeca apartment reflected this philosophy, with abstract paintings contextualized by African sculptures, and works by contemporary Americans in conversation with established European modernists.

As an artist, Jean Arp explored the intersection of reality and abstraction. This play is best appreciated in his painted wooden reliefs that straddle the natural and biomorphic worlds – of which Les Deux Soeurs is a superb example (estimate $2.5/3.5 million). Executed in 1927, the work was completed at a time when Arp lived next door to Max Ernst and Joan Miró. The present relief evolves from his earlier roots in Dadaism and transcends into the abstract world, with humor and whimsy.

“I haven’t looked up the dictionary definition of sculpture lately…but no catalogue will be complete, will do the trick. For sculpture mutates faster than any other art form I know of.” — Edward Albee, Some Thoughts on Sculpture —

As a voracious collector with an eclectic taste, Edward Albee took an interest in sculpture, in addition to paintings. He had a particular fondness for sculptures and other works of art made by indigenous cultures of Africa and Oceania. A highlight from Albee’s African art collection is an Ancestor Figure (Singiti) from the Hemba people of modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (estimate $15/25,000). While in Albee’s collection, the stylized and elegant forms of the Hemba figure were presented in dialogue with the simple biomorphic forms of the Arp painting, just as artists of Arp’s generation engaged in dialogue with the striking art forms they encountered in African and Oceanic sculptures that entered European collections in the early part of the 20th century.

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