Albee Auction Yields $12.5M

A rare “white glove sale"

Last week’s sale of Edward Albee’s collection of art and decorative objects at Sotheby’s in Manhattan broke records for many of the artists involved. It was a rare “white glove sale,” meaning all 105 lots sold, and the auction raised $12.5 million to support the Edward F. Albee Foundation, which provides residencies for writers and visual artists in Montauk, where the playwright lived part time.

Mr. Albee established the foundation in 1967, flush from his success with plays such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance.” He made provisions in his will that his collection be sold to benefit the foundation, and his will was honored after his death last year. Most of the art he collected had been placed in his TriBeCa loft.

The auction featured work by Milton Avery, Lee Krasner, John Cage, and many other artists, some better known than others. Avery’s “Meditation,” from 1960, sold for $3.7 million, exceeding its estimate of $2 million to $3 million. Three bidders drove it to the second highest price paid at auction for a work by the artist. A second Avery painting, “Two Nudes‚“ from 1954, did not fare as well, selling below its estimate of $400,000 to $600,000, at $372,500.

Three-quarters of the lots offered, however, did exceed their high estimates. The sale also set 16 new auction records for works by artists such as Krasner, whose acrylic and gouache on paper sold for $588,500, far above its high estimate of $180,000. Works by Cage, Ilya Bolotowsky, and Albert Eugene Gallatin were some of the other record breakers. John McLaughlin’s “V-1957” attracted six spirited bidders who put the piece high over its $80,000 to $120,000 estimate to a final price of $516,500.

Amy Cappellazzo, the chairwoman of Sotheby’s fine art division, explained the enthusiasm as an appreciation of “Edward’s canny eye and thoughtful understanding of the artistic process” by a broad collecting audience. In a release, she said that the bidders understood that what was on offer was “a slice of New York intellectual history.”