Pace Primitive Gallery is located at:
32 East 57th Street
New York, New York 10022
Phone: +001 212.421.3688
Email: Carlo Bella, Director carlo*paceprimitive.com
Estate Property and Dealers: A Case History : PaceWildenstein Gallery
--- Pace sells much of their holdings in Primitive art to collectors of 20th
Century painting and sculpture, probably more than to collectors of African and
read also :SAM FOGG PRESENTS Ethiopian
art at PaceWildenstein in New York in October 2005
found at http://www.artdealers.org/
Recently, PaceWildenstein Gallery was selected to market and sell the fine
art in the Estate of Berthe and Oscar Kolin, including major masterworks by Hans
Hofmann, Fernand Leger, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso other artists and African Art.
Robert Fishko, editor of the ADAA Report discussed how this process occurred
with Jeffrey Hoffeld, a consultant who was retained as art advisor to the
Estate; and Anthony Grant of PaceWildenstein. From the conversation, a picture
emerged of a resourceful and important art gallery presenting its position to
knowledgeable and well-advised executors, and getting a great collection to
offer to its clients as a result.
Prior to joining PaceWildenstein, Anthony Grant was senior Vice-President and
Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's; Jeffrey Hoffeld's career has included
service as Assistant Curator of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
and as Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art. He operated his own gallery in
New York, and worked as curator at Jan Krugier Gallery, Hirschl and Adler
Galleries and Max Protetch Gallery. Robert Fishko is the Director at Forum
Berthe and Oscar Kolin were major collectors on the New York art scene for
years. Mr. Kolin was a nephew of Helena Rubinstein, and a number of works in the
Kolin's collection had been in the collection of Helena Rubinstein. Mr. and Mrs.
Kolin loved art and were passionate collectors in their own right, visiting
modern and contemporary galleries regularly in New York and throughout the
world. They assembled, in the course of more than thirty years of collecting, a
diverse collection including great works of Tribal Art and a large collection of
opaline glass. When Berthe Kolin died in 1994, the collection became the
property of Oscar Kolin, who died a year later. Upon Mr. Kolin's death, the
collection passed into his Estate.His principal beneficiary, his daughter, is
the Executor of the Estate.
Anthony Grant was familiar with the Kolin Collection while at Sotheby's because
that firm was asked several times for appraisals by the Kolins. And other
executives and department heads at Sotheby's knew the Kolins and the collection
as well.Christie's was also aware of the Kolin Collection. According to Jeffrey
Hoffeld, when Oscar Kolin died, his daughter was approached by representatives
of Sotheby's and Christine's almost immediately.
Jeffrey Hoffled Anthony Grant
Jeffrey Hoffeld: I was contacted by Diane and Robert Moss [Diane is the daughter
of Berthe and Oscar Kolin and is President of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation
and a board member at the Whitney Museum] because they were confused and
bewildered about all the numbers being thrown at them. In addition to the
auction houses, there were some approaches by individual dealers targeting
specific works. They sought me out to help them understand better all the
choices before them and to help them create a strategy for the disposal of the
art. Several works, including a major David Smith, were given to the Whitney
Museum during the collectors' lifetime; but there were two homes to deal with,
one in East Hampton and an apartment in New York. From the outset they knew that
they wished to sell the majority of the works in the collection. PaceWildenstein
became involved when I asked another dealer and Arne Glimcher [Arnold B.
Glimcher, President of PaceWildenstein] to come in, look over the collection and
Robert Fishko: Was there any discussion of splitting up the works, taking them
various places according to individual works or was it thought the collection
would best be served by keeping it all together?
Jeffrey Hoffeld: I stepped through many alternatives with the family. We felt
increasingly that the diverse interests in the collection ranging from the
Tribal Art to early 20th Century European masters-Leger, Picasso, Giacometti;
together with the post-World War II art made for a very appropriate situating of
the collection with PaceWildenstein. The African component, of course, did not
match any other dealer's program, but that was not a decisive point because
there were several alternatives to deal with the African element, such as Pace
Primitive, auction, or by a private dealer. Pace is one of the last galleries
handling African art in New York, I don't know if there is another that is open
to the public. Actually, Pace sells much of their holdings in Primitive art to
collectors of 20th Century painting and sculpture, probably more than to
collectors of African and Tribal arts.
Anthony Grant: There is more of a crossover from Tribal to 20th Century
painting, drawing, and sculpture at the gallery.
JH: With private dealing in Tribal Art, which I do some of, there is a little of
that crossover, but it's much more targeted toward the usual suspects and
museums. I think that for obvious reasons, given the physical structure of
PaceWildenstein, with its slate of offerings, people can get turned on to Tribal
Art on the premises and feel comfortable about the expertise that the gallery
RF: So that the diversity of PaceWildenstein's program was appealing to the
estate and was a major factor in the estate winding up at PaceWildenstein.
Anthony, if this group of works including the African works, was to be consigned
to a major auction house, would it have been appropriate for it to be grouped
together and sold at a single-owner sale or would it have been spread through
AG: I think probably in a series of sales, based upon the collection that we
have to sell. The family did not sell everything. I think they sold the lion's
share, but there were some pictures and works of art that they held back for
themselves. If I were working at Sotheby's at the time and the whole collection
was being sold, I think the Contemporary Art, at least the post-War art, could
have made up the basis for a catalogue. I think the Modern was a little more
spread out, diffused in period. There were paintings, drawings and sculpture,
everything from a small Cassatt work on paper to a major Picasso from 1963. The
post-War abstract works had quite a nucleus of very strong pictures. I think
after they decided what to keep for themselves and what to sell, it would have
been best, had it gone to auction, to put it into various-owner Modern and
various-owner Contemporary sales. The Tribal Art as well.
RF: That being the case would it take longer or less time to make the works
available to the general public?
JH: The auction houses said that they would have the job done in six months. It
would have been this season and the Fall sales for the appropriate number of
major works and other works would have gone down to Christie's East or Sotheby's
RF: But PaceWildenstein was able to make these works available in what period of
JH: Well, virtually instantly. As soon as an agreement was reached, sales began.
RF: That presumably is something that dealers can do, they don't have to wait
until the scheduled opportunity to make potential buyers aware of the
availability of the material.
AG: It is very interesting to sit on this side of the fence now, as opposed to
an auction house. The way we targeted buyers for this material was the same as
we targeted buyers at the auction house. Obviously if we came up with two or
three or four people, we would think it was a worthwhile piece to bring into the
sale. Then we could come up with an estimate easily, the more potential buyers
the better the estimate. I think we get more walk-ins at Pace but I think that
for the expensive objects we know who the interested parties are now and the
auction houses do as well. I am fascinated now that I am at Pace, that there
seems to be a number of collectors who are only in the market of the galleries
and not at auction. There are pure auction buyers also, of course. At Pace, as
Jeffrey said, in an instant after the agreement was reached, we had already
decided who were the likely buyers of say, a 1963 Picasso. Another example is
the Hans Hofmann, which we thought was slightly out of our realm, but it wasn't
at all, we identified people that would buy the picture and eventually one of
them did. So we managed to fairly quickly sell work and prior to scheduled
auction dates. The terms of payment were also more immediate than the 35 to 40
days after an auction sale would occur.
JH: I think it is particularly noteworthy, after Anthony's comments that I
attempted to make the executors aware of how special the expertise of dealers
is, and how diversified this expertise can be under any given roof. I made the
point that PaceWildenstein also had the auction house experience residing under
their roof. Many of the things that the executors might be seeking in the
specialists and the wherewithal of the clientele and so forth, of the auction
houses, they would in fact have an opportunity to avail themselves of at
RF: The two most difficult challenges for dealers are first, to answer the
concern about price. People say "How can I be sure I am going to get the
highest price? If it goes up at auction there is always a chance two people will
make a competitive result and we might realize a price far in excess of what
you, the dealer, say you're going to sell the painting for." The other
issue that is related, particularly for trustees and executors of estates, is
one of scrutiny and comment. One can say, "At least if the art sold in
front of God and everyone in an auction sale, no one can point a finger at me
and say, I did my clients in." How do you address those questions?
JH: First of all, in this case, the numbers that were put forward by the dealers
who had examined the estate were much stronger than the auction house numbers.
The estimates were higher, and the evidence that each of the dealers was able to
present–examples of comparable sales–supported those estimates. That was
very different from what the auction houses had to say. The results at auction
for comparable works did not support the claims of the auction houses as to what
they thought they could achieve. One of the exercises that was crucial to the
decision-making on the part of the executors was seeing a base line of
comparable auction results. Together with hearing from dealers about the
comparables that they had experience with, once the comparables were put on the
table from the auction houses, the numbers that had been proposed as estimates
by the auction houses lost their credibility. This was true in virtually every
case. We used the results over the period of the last three years, rather than
go back too far to an inappropriate market. Three years was felt to be a
comfortable window. There was a concentration of value in a small group of
works, Picasso, Leger, Rothko, etc. which added up to the bulk of the value. In
all those works, the auction house results could not support the numbers that
they were proposing.
Estate Property and Dealers: A Case History, continued.
AG: I noticed with my colleagues when I was at the auction house, one deals with
such volume that one tends to forget that one is working with works of art. For
example a Hans Hofmann from the 50's–by looking over what sold in the last
three years without really looking at the work of art in this particular case-
you might not see that a truly incredible painting from 1954 would not have come
up. You are dealing with something unique. Therefore, there is nothing to
compare it to relatively quickly. You have to decide that this is wonderful, it
is better than anything that has come up. There has to be an appropriate amount
of money to place on it. That, in concept, rules out who was the underbidder the
last time a Hofmann came up. Would they be in the market for this kind of
painting? For another example, you are dealing with a Picasso from the 60's, it
was possibly the largest from the last decade and the quality was extraordinary
and when you look what else was available from this period, it just cannot
compare to this picture. The same with the Rothko. I think that what the
auctions do is to go to their archive cards and lay them all out and they say
1960's Picassos have brought anything from $800,000 to $2,000,000, let's say. So
they average it out and put an assessment on it in cookie-cutter fashion,
without really thinking about the work of art, without thinking about the people
out there who may have bid on something six months ago or may have looked at it
carefully, then chose not to bid because it just was not right. That is what you
have to store in your head, and I think the cards of past sales are relevant and
one has to look at them, you can use them as a barometer, but I think that at
the end of the day, one has to judge the work of art. They are all unique and
they have to stand on their own. As a seller, you have to look at who is selling
the work of art for you and who can best articulate it.
RF: Identify it first and then articulate it...
AG: And who has the sensitivity to groom the clients whom you are targeting. I
think that in galleries, you can't abuse the relationship you have with your
best clients for short term goals. It has to be thought through, so when you
call client "X" and say, 'look, we are getting an extraordinary 1963
Picasso and I think this is the one for you,' you had better mean it and it
better be a picture with very few arguable qualifications about it. I think the
right dealer looking at estate material can exercise those talents in a special
way. And give the client the breathing space to think about them. Several of
these pieces were out at peoples' homes on approval and sent all over the
country for people to live with before making their decisions.
RF: Is that something that an auction house would not be able to do?
AG: They certainly can move them around their various offices, but on approval,
that happened only very occasionally. It was always at the suggestion of the
expert in the department, it was never by the client, they would have been
reticent to ask the auction house to borrow a work on approval. I remember we
used to send some works over to Park Avenue for a day or two before the auction
to try it out. It's not
the same as sending a Louise Bourgeois sculpture to the West Coast and giving
the person the luxury of giving it some real serious thought about whether they
want to have it or not have it. This is the part that is extremely satisfying to
RF: It is more about placing the work rather than just selling it.
AG: It's much more focused on an individual person and a work of art and linking
that person with the work of art. I get great satisfaction out of that.
JH: And you participate in developing collections.
RF: It can be very exciting for dealers, and for sellers of art, it can
represent an opportunity for them, rather than throwing it out into the mass of
available works that might be out there.
JH: I think that with the Kolin Family what you are speaking of is particularly
relevant because the Kolins had close relationships with dealers, but they were
by no means antagonistic to the auction houses. They used the auction houses for
the material that they thought the houses were appropriate for and to appraise
the whole collection if they needed an insurance update or to sell some items
that they felt appropriate and wanted handled that way. And the celebrity
auctions surrounding Helena Rubinstein. So it was not by any means adversarial.
However the Kolins visited the galleries regularly, Berthe was a high profile
gallery-goer. She was a board member at the Whitney [Museum of American Art],
she was on the Education Committee of the Whitney. So handling the works in a
way that would be suggestive and representative of the dignity of the process of
putting the collection together was important. This included friendships with
artists, which the Kolins maintained -de Kooning, Louise Nevelson and others.
Especially at their home in East Hampton. Working with dealers and disposing of
the works in the manner of care in which they were first assembled, I think came
to have some effect.
AG: They obviously set an example for their executors, who were basically their
RF: Were the executors concerned about scrutiny?
JH: Well, they were concerned about scrutiny because they wished to maximize the
benefits to the beneficiaries, and that was the most important bottom line
issue. They thought they had covered themselves by looking carefully at the
numbers. And realizing the choice they were making would serve the purpose of
maximizing benefit, whereas the auction houses created more perilous exposure
together with some uncertainty about the actual financial yield.
RF: I am always concerned on the part of the seller with the possibility of
having their work "burned" or ruined in the marketplace by failing at
auction due to a high estimate. Is that a concern that comes up often in these
AG: I think that is a difficult question. Often you find things can fall through
the cracks, often they are quite respectable works of art, but it does happen
and if I were an executor, it would be of concern to me. The auction houses are
in a situation where there are hundreds of lots and in the midst of
various-owner sales you have to try to represent the needs of every single
consignor and every single work of art. Here our only needs were basically to
represent the Kolins and the individual works they consigned to us. So there was
no competition within our infrastructure of works of art. We are still working
with it but basically I think it has been very very good for targeting material
RF: Did the collection have several works of equivalent quality by the same
AG: Well, yes, [Mark] Di Suvero, [Frank] StellaÉbut they are very different
works of art, with Di Suvero, one is monumental, the other is not monumental,
with Stella one is from the early period and there is a relief from a different
period. So the collection can be characterized as usually one work by a major
artist. It is a small collection but very choice works of art. Chosen very well.
RF: Perhaps that makes it ideal for dealer representation. Something I would be
concerned about is you don't know when your art goes into a multiple-owner sale
in an auction house, how many other works of art by the same artist, possibly
from the same year, of equivalent or even better quality might be there.
If you've a thin market and you have six people that might be interested in a
great Demuth painting, you had better hope that yours is the only one that is
going to come up that night.
AG: That is why I think Jeffrey has done such a very good job getting through
all this for the Kolin Family. One has to be fair to the experts at the auction
houses, who will honestly tell you what is in the sale, and who will say,
"maybe it isn't a great idea to do this now." Obviously you leave
yourself wide open if you say "let's put this in the Fall sale or in six
months." The real chance you took if you took in a work knowing full well
you had one or two similar works, was that there would be a problem. Choice is
not good at an auction. One seller usually suffers. "Suffer" means
that they might bring a lesser price, which is the best way to suffer, but most
times "suffer" means that it failed to meet its reserve.
RF: Does that have the destructive effect that some of us fear?
AG: People look so closely, the people that are collecting now, whether it is an
old collector or a new collector just coming in, their education is at such a
high level. Perhaps they are being advised by someone like Jeffrey Hoffeld or
they are doing their homework, their education is excellent and therefore they
are looking very carefully at prices at auction and the changing marketplace in
the galleries. Yes, when things don't sell, I think there is a definitely a new
price to be paid for it. I am not sure I would go so far as to say it was
burned. I just think that there has to be an estimate change which reflects the
lack of interest. In the early 1990's, people wanted to buy well at a fair price
and they might not like the estimate that night but felt perfectly fine about
calling the next day. A lot of people bought some extraordinary works of art
when the Saatchi collection came up. Those were great sales, extraordinary
opportunities and many of them went unsold the night of the sale. Great things.
RF: Yes, but there were a couple of years when one of the worst thing you could
say about a picture was, "Oh, that is a Saatchi picture." It meant it
was overpriced, overexposed, stigmatized. As if the collector had participated
in creating the work of art.
JH: People should have a wider view of things and not get stuck on those
subjects. It just takes a little longer view because so many things do get
absorbed ultimately into the marketplace and wind up on museum walls or
individuals' walls that have so called "floated around." I'd like to
have all of them in my inventory.
AG: Exactly. And in the environment we are working in right now, we have these
highly educated collectors who are looking at works as individual works. At the
end of the day the work of art does it to you or doesn't do it to you. I think a
lot of the rest is bunk, you have to look hard and say "Do I want this work
of art or not?" I am having a great time because I think we are dealing
with extraordinary people who want to live in a great environment with art
around them, really hang it and not warehouse it. The art that we are selling is
going to peoples homes, or institutions, but for the most part homes and not to
Judson Warehouse or Crozier to sit in limbo.
JH: You are actually able to visit and look at the art, which is wonderful.
RF: Was there any estate tax problem in the Kolin Collection, did they need cash
to pay estate tax?
JH: I think that all of the requirements seemed easy to meet in view of what
Pace could expeditiously sell. Anthony perhaps would have heard, as I have, the
rumor that Pace bought the whole Kolin Estate, because it is hard for dealers,
envious sounding actually, to understand how you can make your case heard and
succeed in getting a collection on consignment without financial guarantees and
without making purchases from the collection and in that respect, function on
equal footing with the auction houses in making a case so strong as to not
require guarantees, advances and the like.
AG: And also, maximizing the sale of that work of art, without the pressure of
the tax bill, because very often we are seeing results of people having to, in
desperation, place works for sale at auction with urgency or sell things
outright to dealers and others in order to meet a tax obligation without having
researched what the alternatives are for meeting the tax obligation and
maximizing the revenue from the sale: having your cake and eating it too.
RF: Finally, was commission structure an issue? Is it an issue in general, in
trying to get consignments from estates and collections? Or was it a matter
mostly of the selling price and commissions are going to be about the same
AG: I guess everything is a negotiation. In this case, I think what the Kolins
were dealing with more than commission structure, was the price they were given
by the trade versus the prices they were given by auction houses. The auction
houses being on the lower side and their fixed commission structure became
double reasons for them to go with a dealer that could accommodate the work and
sell at the prices we had quoted to them. So of course the commission really
becomes secondary. This goes back to the high level of people that we are
dealing with on the collector side, the curatorial side, and the dealer side.
The issue of commissions is professionally discussed nowadays. I think when the
market had more speculators, you had wild swings in commissions, wild swings in
prices, a lot of things. We are looking at a much more stable environment now.
It is a pleasure to be working in this environment rather than the old
JH: I think that when our services and our expertise are made clear, side by
side with the maximum selling prices that can be achieved, the case is very
strong. One of the efforts we need to make as dealers is helping to publicize
what we have to offer to collectors and to executors and estate managers in a
clearer more direct way and not at random, preferably through systematic
channels with estate and trust lawyers and bank people and the like, and I see
no reason why dealers cannot work together, for example with banks, to formulate
financing for an estate, based on the art that has been collateralized, in order
to enable executors to meet timely payments and the like and proceed with the
business of selling the art.
SAM FOGG PRESENTS
at PaceWildenstein in New York in October 2005
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