Houston oil billionaire Pierre Schlumberger and his wife São spent much of their lives proudly supporting the arts, both locally and abroad.
Next month, Sotheby's is set to auction off more than 90 works from the couple's extensive collection — a collection with a combined estimate of approximately $85 million — including an extremely rare piece by Mark Rothko and an Andy Warhol silkscreen portrait.
The priciest offering at the auction is expected to be Rothko's "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)," which the Schlumberger's purchased directly from the artist's estate. It has never been at auction before, according to Sotheby's.
The 1974 piece is expected to fetch at least $2 million at auction.
"(It's) among the finest examples of the artist's work remaining in private hands," Oliver Barker, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe said in a statement. " 'No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)' could easily achieve a price in excess of $50 million." For reference, the current Rothko auction record is $86.8 million for his 1961 piece "Orange, Red, Yellow," which sold at a Christie's auction in 2012.
As one of the world's most avid art patrons, São Schlumberger was actually asked by Warhol himself to pose for one of his distinctive portraits. Entitled "Portrait São Schlumberger," the 1974 piece is expected to fetch at least $2 million at auction.
One of the most unique pieces in the collection is the diamond and pearl "Swirling Sea" necklace, created for São Schlumberger by artist and friend Salvador Dalí. The necklace is expected to sell for at least $100,000.
Among the works to be auctioned are Pablo Picasso's "Les Enfants" (estimated $5-$7 million), Ad Reinhardt's "Blue Composition" (estimated $5-$7 million), a mobile by Alexander Calder entitled "Handshake and Fishtail" (estimated $2-$3 million), Adolph Gottlieb's "Red and Blue" (estimated $2-$3 million) and John Chamberlain's "Mr. Moto" sculpture (estimated $1.8-$2.5 million).
The provenance of these pieces — from a couple who was integral in funding the restoration of the Palace of Versailles, as well as providing significant support to the Pompidou Center in Paris, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center in New York — certainly adds to their already significant value.
The Schlumberger's collection will be featured at the evening and day sales of Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art at Sotheby's New York on Nov. 4 and 5 and 11 and 12, respectively.