Texas ranching heiress’ art trove fetches $157 million at auction

Late North Texas philanthropist Anne Windfohr Marion’s private art collection sold for an eye-popping $157.2 million (including fees) at a Sotheby’s New York auction May 12.

The 14-lot “American Visionary: The Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion” — described as a “legendary Texan, renowned philanthropist, and storied collector” — included post-war American art masterpieces and other works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and more.

It was valued at $132 million-$190.2 million and sold for $134.4 million before fees, according to The Art Newspaper, which adds that, disappointingly, “four of the 18 lots offered failed to sell for a decent buy-in rate of 22 percent.”

But records were broken for works by Richard Diebhenkorn, Kenneth Noland, and Larry Rivers, Sotheby’s says. Two works exceed $30 million, and four works exceeded $20 million.

Information about buyers was not disclosed.

Sale highlights include:

Richard Diebenkorn’s 7-foot-tall Ocean Park #40 — purchased from Sotheby’s in 1990 for $880,000 — set a new record for the artist at $27.3 million (est. $20-$30 million).

Andy Warhol’s 1963 Elvis 2 Times — “a portrait of the star who came to embody the cowboy ideal” — sold for $37 million in its auction debut (est. $20-$30 million).

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild was underbid by one Asian collector and sold to another for $23.2 million (est. $14-$18 million).

Clyfford Still’s masterwork PH-125 (1948-No. 1) fetched $30.7 million, also in its auction debut (est. $25-$35 million). “Like Mrs. Marion, Still also came from the vast expanses of rural America, and the grandeur of the landscapes that surrounded him were an enduring influence,” Sotheby’s says.

Prior to the auction, Sotheby’s had called Marion’s assemblage “the most significant collection to come to auction for years.”

Marion, a Texas ranching heiress, died in February 2020 at age 81. She left behind a Texas ranching empire about one-third the size of Rhode Island, which went on the market late last year for more than $340 million. (It reportedly sold to a Hollywood star, but as of press time, a sale had not been finalized and made public.)

The artworks on auction had decorated Anne and John Marion’s palatial Fort Worth home. Others were gifted to the Kimbell Art Museum and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Sotheby’s says.

Marion was a champion of the arts in Fort Worth, and she and husband John, a former Sotheby’s chairman and auctioneer, founded the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In addition to a dedicated auction for Marion’s fine art collection, Sotheby’s is also holding an online sale of select jewelry pieces. “As with the masterworks of 20th century American art she acquired with her husband, Mrs. Marion’s appreciation for American-made design extends to her jewelry collection, boasting signature pieces by Verdura, Andrew Clunn, and most notably, David Webb,” Sotheby’s says in a release.

According to the auction website, bidding in “American Visionary: Fine Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion” runs May 10-18.

Additional works from the Marion Collection will also be included within other Sotheby sales this spring, including the Contemporary Art Day auction (May 13), Master Paintings (May 20), Impressionist & Modern Art Day sale (April 30-May 14), American Art (May 19), and the European Art sale (May 13-20).

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