Sonnabend estate sold for $600m

NEW YORK. The heirs of the late art dealer Ileana Sonnabend sold nearly $600m worth of art in two private transactions in early April to pay estate taxes. The reported buyers are the Gagosian Gallery and GPS Partners, art advisers based in Paris and New York. According to Sonnabend estate attorney Ralph Lerner, the remaining collection is being appraised and may be worth up to $300m.

GPS Partners, made up of dealers Franck Giraud, Lionel Pissarro and Philippe Ségalot, would not comment, but sources say that the team purchased $400m of paintings and sculptures dating mainly from the 1960s on behalf of private clients. The second transaction, a selection of paintings by Andy Warhol, was sold to Gagosian Gallery for a reported $200m.

Ileana Sonnabend died in October 2007 leaving her daughter Nina Sundell and adopted son Antonio Homem, who runs Sonnabend Gallery in New York, as executors of her will. Although the family had been in talks with the auction houses, Mr Lerner said they chose to sell privately because of the current uncertainties surrounding the financial markets.

Mr Homem said: “Nina Sundell and I needed to raise a large amount for estate expenses and it seemed to us quickest and easiest to work with people we knew.” When asked what remains in the Sonnabend Collection, he said that although many important works have been dispersed, the remaining collection “has the same profile as the original”.

Ileana Sonnabend inaugurated her gallery in SoHo in 1971 with a performance by Gilbert & George, and later allowed artist Vito Acconci to masturbate under the floorboards while the public heard his groans via a loudspeaker. The collection includes pop art, minimalism, process art and arte povera by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Mario Merz and Robert Rauschenberg.

Charmaine Picard

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