By Mark Stryker

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer


More than 500 pieces of art owned by the late Detroit shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman are heading to the auction block in New York, where they are expected to fetch more than $500 million — the most valuable private collection ever offered for sale at auction, according to Sotheby’s, which is handling the sale.

A series of four auctions dedicated to the collection will be held starting in November.

The full impact of the sale on the Detroit Institute of Arts, which counted Taubman as one of its most generous patrons, remains unclear, though it now seems likely that the museum — and local museumgoers — will miss out on numerous works, from treasures of antiquity to modern masterpieces, that would have dramatically enriched the holdings of the DIA.

“What is going to be sold represents his entire collection, including works on loan at museums,” said Lauren Gioia, worldwide director of communications for Sotheby’s.

At the time of Taubman’s death in April at age 91, five 17th Century Old Master paintings were on loan to the DIA, including those by Guercino, Pietro da Cortona, Valentin de Boulogne, Caracciolo and Matthias Stom. All were hanging in a single gallery.

DIA spokesperson Pam Marcil refused to confirm late Thursday afternoon whether those paintings were still on view at the museum. DIA board chairman Gene Gargaro declined comment on Taubman’s estate and the auction. “Right now it’s a family matter and we’re respecting that,” Gargaro said.

Jeffrey Abt, an art historian at Wayne State University, said that while the first reaction of many people is to bemoan the loss of a significant local collection like Taubman’s, the story is often more complicated.

“It may not necessarily be a bad thing for the DIA,” Abt said. “It depends whether Taubman has made a bequest or commitment to donate money from the sale of art. If this is an indication that he’s not going to contribute anything, money or art, to the museum, then that’s bad. I assume the museum was counting on one final gift.”

According to Sotheby’s, proceeds from the sale will be used to settle estate tax obligations and to fund the A. Alfred Taubman Foundation.

“It was important to Mr. Taubman that the Taubman Foundation continue to be a source of support for the arts, education and medical research,” Christopher Tennyson, a spokesperson for the Taubman estate, said in a statement. “His family is committed to continuing Mr. Taubman’s philanthropic tradition.”… Read more here.

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