Edward Albee's art collection goes under hammer to raise funds

More than 100 works collected by the late playwright Edward Albee (above, in a 2012 photograph) will be up for auction in September.
More than 100 works collected by the late playwright Edward Albee (above, in a 2012 photograph) will be up for auction in September.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Edward Albee is, of course, best known for his plays, the most famous of them being Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.

But he was also a collector and visitors to his Tribeca loft were often struck by the museum-like array of tribal sculptures and contemporary paintings.

Now his estate is planning to sell his art collection to raise money for his foundation, which maintains a residence for artists in Montauk, New York.

In late September, Sotheby's is planning to auction more than 100 works from Albee's collection, which the company expects to sell for more than US$9 million (S$12.5 million).

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The work is mostly 20th-century fine art - Jean Arp, Milton Avery, Wassily Kandinsky and Lee Krasner are among the artists represented in the collection - but also includes some African pieces.

"He really loved objects and painting," said Ms Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of Sotheby's fine-arts division. "Edward lived with the collection in a very special way. He lived with it deeply.

"Everything was placed in an open-loft environment and how they were hung was interesting and specific to him, so we're going to try to do justice to those ideas."

She said Albee, who died last September aged 88, amassed the collection over many years and across many genres. She said some works were acquired based on relationships he had with the artists, some because they were connected to devotional practices that interested him and some simply because they caught his eye.

"That eclectic taste is a mark of his curiosity," she said. "He had tremendous reverence for the process of art-making of all kinds and the collection is definitely that of a collector who was interested in the minds of artists."

Ms Cappellazzo said Albee's renown would likely enhance sales: "A collection that belongs to someone who is well-known takes on a different life.

"Whenever you're involved with a collection of someone who him or herself was also of artistic greatness, you look at the collection differently."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Edward Albee's art collection goes under hammer to raise funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe