Lenz Couple Is Selling Art for the Kids
The buzz around the February art auctions is palpable. Sure, Christie's and Phillips de Pury have pulled together some impressive pieces to send under the gavel, but Sotheby's has engineered the real excitement ... with the collection of Gerhard and Anna Lenz. The Lenzes have collected art for half a century, and the Sotheby's auction will constitute the first time they've sold rather than bought. The Lenzes are putting 49 of the 600 works in their collection on the block -- and they're doing it for the kids.
On February 10, 2010, Gerhard and Anna will say goodbye to artwork by Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Guenther Uecker. In return for a loss that "hurts," Bloomberg News says of Gerhard, the couple is expected to pull in close to $20 million, sans commissions. Well, that's better than Tylenol for easing the pain.
Says Gerhard, "My wife and I are of an age where we must think about our estate." He continues, "We can't burden our sons with our lives -- they have their own life plans, so we are creating a bit of space."
Though the collection is privately held, The Lenzes have been generous in displaying the pieces. Over the past 25 years, the public has been able to view it in 12 cities -- including Madrid, Moscow, Warsaw and Salzburg. Gerhard tells Bloomberg News, "You can't keep art in a private space in the long term, especially not when the collection has hugely outgrown the private sphere." He adds, "As a collector, you never gain ownership of the art, you have temporary possession that gives you the responsibility to manage and protect it. The pictures belong on public view."
Because Gerhard and Anna couldn't choose what to offload, the task fell to Bastienne Leuthe, a Sotheby's deputy director of contemporary art. But, the elbow room being created by Leuthe's choices may only be temporary. After all, the Lenzes are still buying ... and they're still buying from Zero group artists, largely because "we are such close friends with a lot of artists that we want to accompany them in their old age." Also, Gerhard says, "We had similar histories: the war, the end of the war, a destroyed Germany, a destroyed Europe, getting over the apocalypse of World War II, over Fascism, we all lived that together, and we all enjoyed the new freedom.
The revenue from the sale will go to maintaining the rest of the collection.