Warhol / Basquiat
The first time that these Warhol/Basquiat collaborations were shown in 1985 was at Tony Shafrazi’s gallery with the now famous poster of Andy and Jean-Michel dressed as boxers announcing a prize fight. Peter Brant reminded me of this great show and so with his encouragement, David Grob and I contacted Bruno Bischofberger, who had organised Tony Shafrazi's show, early in 1988 to see if he still had some work from this series for sale. Bruno came to London in order to see the three gallery spaces we wanted to show them in. He showed us a group of work to choose from and in the end we bought a half-share from him of 17 works for $1,700,000.
Although Keith Haring wrote in our catalogue that “a successful collaboration is always the result of a successful relationship” and with these paintings “two amazing minds fusing together to create a third, totally separate and unique mind,” unfortunately, and rather strangely, the market hasn’t ever really accepted these works and whenever one appears on the marketplace it is always for a lot less than an individual work by either of them. At the time of Jean-Michel’s death we were staying with friends in the South of France, our host immediately remarked that the value of these collaborations would go up, but this didn’t really happen.
I had a particularly unpleasant, chain smoking Scandinavian client (it was rumoured that in order to escape from Estonia he had swum across the Baltic Sea to Sweden) that wanted to buy one or two of these works. During the negotiations he dropped his lit cigarette and said “I am a very rich man” as he ground the cigarette into my carpet with his shoe. At one evening sale at Sotheby’s he chain smoked throughout and no doubt dropped all the butts on the floor. Such was his menace, not one member of Sotheby’s staff made any effort to stop him.
Ed Paschke, Tragique, 1980, oil on canvas, 32 x 46 inches (81.3 x 116.8 cm), Private Collection
We did this Ed Paschke show with Jan Runnquist from Geneva (we had previously worked with him on Jim Nutt and Ivor Abrahams shows). The first time that I had seen Ed’s work was in the legendary curator and collector Jim Speyer’s house in Chicago in 1970 and we later included his work in our Six Artists from Chicago show in 1980. Right from the beginning I was interested in his work and am very happy that he is now getting the attention that he deserves, some of this is due to one of his old pupils - Jeff Koons’s interest in his work. This particular painting Tragique, 1980, we soon discovered, much to our astonishment, acted as some sort of litmus test for people’s sexuality.
Arman, Tuez-les tous, Dieu reconnaitra les siens, 1964 assemblage, 24 x 24 x 24 inches (60 x 60 x 60 cm), Private Collection
Although I had known Arman and been an admirer of his work for many years, I was amazed to learn that he had never in fact had a gallery show in London, so Arman and I decided to correct the situation with this show.
This was the time when the Swedes were buying art as if there was no tomorrow. I sold a couple to a scion of a very famous Swedish family on a Friday afternoon and was thrilled with the idea of having found a serious, new young client, only to be called by him on the following Monday morning to be asked how much had they gone up by!
In conversation once with Arman, he'd remarked that he noticed that I didn’t like all his new work, which was perfectly true, and so explained to me that he had two distinct groups: one the ‘Fauchon’ type (that I liked) and the other the ‘Felix Potin’ ones which he needed to make to support his lifestyle.
After my family had been staying with Corice and Arman in the South of France, our elder daughter discovered that she had left her nightdress behind to which our younger daughter retorted as quick as a flash “too bad, he will have made it into a sculpture by now”.
Josef Albers, Study for Affectionate (Homage to the Square), 1955, oil on masonite in artist's frame
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches (40 x 40 cm), Private Collection
The great thing about Albers's work is that it fits into almost any type of collection involving the 20th century because of his involvement with the Bauhaus and later his teaching at the Black Mountain School. With all this information, Karsten Greve and I decided that it made perfect sense to start buying up as many Albers as we could. There were three main sources for his work: Sidney Janis in New York, Denise René in Paris and Gimpel in London. We did surreptitious raids on them all and initially got together about 36 works. It made a beautiful show but unfortunately the timing wasn’t excellent as the great crash of 1990 was just around the corner. We sold this little gem Study for Affectionate (Homage to the Square), 1954 to Jeremy Lancaster for $25,000 who resold at Christie’s in 2019 for $370,000. I am very pleased that our idea of making Albers a must-have artist has come to fruition and maybe our show had something to do it.
John Lees, Stuffed Chair, 1974, oil on canvas, 64 1/2 x 84 inches (164 x 213 cm), Private Collection
Linda McCartney, Flowers in the Dirt, 1989, photographic prints, 22 x 22 inches (56 x 56 cm) each, ed. of 10
I had been friends with Linda’s father Lee Eastman since my Parke-Bernet days, but I only got to know Paul and Linda through Robert Fraser in about 1981. When I was younger, I was often mistaken for Paul and somewhere I have a photograph of the two of us with a Mrs Thatcher lookalike. The idea of this show came about because Linda had taken a series of photographs of which one was going to be used for Paul’s new album Flowers in the Dirt. I was hoping to use a rather sweet photograph here, which sadly I couldn’t find, of my children and their friends at a Christmas tea party that Linda had organised for her show at the gallery instead of a traditional Private View. In September 1993, Paul and Linda were doing a concert at Earl’s Court and for our younger daughter’s 9th birthday they said we could have the party there whilst they did the sound checks. Needless to say, that afternoon, there were no nannies present!