The current record for a Basquiat is $5.5 million
Postcards by Irving Penn Find a Home at the Morgan
The Morgan Library & Museum has acquired 67 portraits of artists, writers and musicians, by Irving Penn, taken from 1944 to 2006.
“These are all figures who are represented in our collection,” said Charles E. Pierce Jr., director of the Morgan. He added that the Morgan had been thinking of ways to incorporate photography in its growing 20th-century collections without forming a comprehensive photography collection, which he said would be not only expensive but also unnecessary, given the rich holdings at local institutions like the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
Mr. Penn has donated 35 of the portraits; the rest were purchased directly from him. The photographs also dovetail with other acquisitions the Morgan has made over the last decade, including the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature and the archives of The Paris Review and the Pierre Matisse Gallery.
Among the subjects in the collection are Picasso, O’Keeffe, Dalí, de Chirico and Giacometti, as well as writers including Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and musical figures including Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and Aaron Copland.
How the Morgan shows the portraits will depend on its programs. Often, Mr. Pierce said, they may be exhibited alongside literary manuscripts or works by some of the subjects Mr. Penn photographed. “There are lots of interdisciplinary opportunities,” he said. Meanwhile, the Morgan is planning an exhibition of the Penn photographs for early 2008.
A BASQUIAT ON THE BLOCK
In 1981 the New York collectors Barbara and Eugene Schwartz bought a painting of a primitive black figure with clenched teeth, his oversized hands held high in the air. The 1980s
“It was one of our first Basquiats, which we hung opposite our bed,” Mrs. Schwartz recalled. “At the time it seemed so fierce. Nobody had ever seen anything like it.”
Over the years the couple bought other paintings by Basquiat, and in 1984, when they ran out of wall space in their New York apartment, they gave the painting to the Israel Museum in
The Schwartzes have been generous donors to museums large and small across the country for decades. “We never had any money, but we did have art to give,” Mrs. Schwartz said.
Now the Israel Museum is selling their gift, on May 15 at Sotheby’s in New York. The proceeds will go toward the creation of the Barbara and Eugene Schwartz Contemporary Art Acquisition Endowment Fund. The auction house estimates that the painting will bring $6 million to
“In the last 20 years we have worked with a really modest budget based on annual contributions but have still been able to build a contemporary art collection,” said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “Each year we have added about 15 to 20, many of which have turned out to be seminal works. In the case of the Basquiat, we have two from the same moment, and so we decided to sell one to create an endowment just for contemporary art.”
Often donors become upset when institutions part with their gifts, but Mrs. Schwartz said she was thrilled.
“It’s always been our philosophy to support young artists,” she said.
Betting that the market for works by Basquiat will be strong, Sotheby’s has given the museum a guarantee — an undisclosed minimum price regardless of a sale’s outcome — that experts in the art world with knowledge of the transaction say exceeds the current record price for a painting by Basquiat. While neither the museum nor the auction house would discuss the exact amount of the guarantee, those familiar with the negotiations say it is $8 million. (The current record for a Basquiat is $5.5 million, set at Christie’s in 2002 when it sold the 1982 work “Profit I.”)