Christie’s Will Auction The Famed Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann

  • April 06, 2022 21:47

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Thomas Ammann in front of Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Joseph Roulin from 1889, 1989. Photo by David Seidner © 2022 Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, Zurich
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987) Flowers, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 81 3/4 x 81 1/2 in. Painted in 1964. Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000

The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann heads to Christie's this May in New York City. Works from the collection will be sold across two live sales at Rockefeller Plaza during the Spring Marquee Week, beginning with a single-owner evening sale on Monday, May 9, 2022.

While a total presale estimate on the collection was not disclosed, Christie's indicated that it could rival the record-setting $835 million philanthropic sale of the Rockefeller Collection sale in 2018.

With a curated selection of 36 masterworks by leading 20th century artists including Robert Ryman, Francesco Clemente, Sturtevant, and Cy Twombly, the evening sale is led by Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn – a painting that could become the most expensive 20th century work to sell at auction.

An additional group of works from the phenomenal private collection will be sold in a dedicated Day sale, taking place during the Spring Marquee Week in succession with the Post-War and Contemporary Day Sale. This sale will showcase a range of 20th century examples of all price points, including works by Brice Marden, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Bidlo, among others.

To maintain clear lines between what they did as dealers and what they did as collectors, as Thomas explained, “you can't collect what you want to sell — because then either you sell all the good things, which is no fun; or you keep all the good things, which bankrupts you.”

Thomas and Doris Ammann were devoted friends of the artists they collected, championing them for the entirety of their careers. When asked by Vanity Fair about his friendship with Thomas Ammann, Francesco Clemente refused to speak on it, calling the relationship “too personal, too sacred” for him to discuss publicly. Thomas devoted every free minute of his time to visiting galleries and artists' studios. As he put it in 1988, "What interests me about collecting is seeing what's happening today. I buy young people, and I buy them very early. I don't buy what I hear about, I buy what I see myself.”

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987) Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 40 x 40 in. Painted in 1964. Estimate on request
ELAINE STURTEVANT (1926-2014) Lichtenstein But It's Hopeless, oil and acrylic on canvas, 44 1/8 x 44 3/8 in. Executed in 1969-1970. Estimate:$600,000-800,000

The artworks on offer range from early 1960s Pop to Minimalism to the best of the 1980s. Collectively, they are demonstrative of the impactful nature of the gallerist-artist relationship and the important role it has had in the historical narrative of the global art market. The Ammanns were indisputably leaders in the art world and market makers for a generation of talented artists—many of whom have gone on to become household names. A number of works on offer come from the walls of the Ammann landmark home, a Bauhaus masterpiece with breathtaking views of Lake Zurich in addition to their other residences. It is both a curated capsule collection and a cross-generational survey of defining 20th century artistic practices.

Doris and Thomas were siblings and cofounders of Thomas Ammann Fine Art. Throughout their lives, the pair endlessly supported creative practices, shepherding artistic endeavors with singular passion. In 1977, the same year he founded his gallery, Thomas Ammann first envisioned the realization of a comprehensive Andy Warhol catalogue raisonné. Coedited by Georg Frei, this was a pursuit Thomas worked toward until the end of his life. It was brought to fruition a decade later in partnership between Thomas Ammann Fine Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. After her brother’s passing in 1993, Doris would continue to run Thomas Ammann Fine Art for the remainder of her life.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the newly founded Thomas and Doris Ammann foundation, which is “dedicated to improving the lives of children worldwide," according to Christie's. 

Doris Ammann, Pestana Palace Lisboa, Portugal, February 2018 © 2022 Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, Zurich

To witness a philanthropic endeavor of this scale is as rare as it is remarkable, Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas. "During their lives, Thomas and Doris Ammann selflessly gave to a generation of artists—the majority of whom have since been canonized. Today, with the establishment of the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, the siblings continue on in their storied generosity, creating an immediate framework of support for children and their families who need it the most within the next three to six years."


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