Bob really loved art and had a real understanding and passion for it. He wasn’t a speculator but a genuine collector, who was prepared to put his money where his mouth was, why else would he have financed some of those huge Land Pieces by Michael Heizer and Walter de Maria? He had a real eye, and even with artists whose work had fallen out of fashion you could be sure he had their best works. Some people have called him vulgar and crass, he wasn’t at all and in reality they were probably just jealous of him.
In the spring of 1973 soon after I had left Parke Bernet, Bob had decided to sell 50 works from his collection with a guarantee of $2,000,000 but suggested that they should have me advise them on the sale. They agreed to this and offered to pay me $18,000 plus all expenses for a week’s work which was 50% more than I was paid the whole of 1972! Immediately after the famous Scull Sale Bob offered me 15 works from his collection for $1,000,000: five Rosenquists, four Johns, three Warhols, two Wesselmanns and a Twombly. Sadly I couldn’t find anybody to finance it, yet over the years I did sell all of the Rosenquists, two of the Johns, both Wesselmanns, one Warhol and the Twombly for rather more.
Bob consigned us a number of Rosenquists as well as Johns’ Double Flag which I failed to sell and Warhol’s Big Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot) which I sold to a great friend along with Rosenquist’s Doorstop. When Kynaston McShine saw the show he was very disappointed that Doorstop had already been sold, so when I was asked to resell it many years later I immediately called Kynaston who promptly bought it for the MOMA in New York. As for the Soup Can, years later I was asked to resell it and it went to Francois Pinault who later sold it to Esther Grether in Basle.
78 3/8 x 60 x 6 3/8 inches (199 x 153 x 16 cm), Private Collection
So when a friend of mine, who had bought the Johns’s Target at the Scull sale in 1973 and gone on to to loan it to the Art Institute of Chicago, asked me to sell it for him for a $1,000,000 net to him, I immediately offered it to Magnus. As he liked the look of it, we agreed that we would go together and take a look at it. We fixed a date and agreed to take the 9 am flight, however we forgot to say which airline and which airport and as it was before mobile telephones it was impossible to reach each other. Luckily we both plumped for the same flight and the deal was done. Magnus continued lending it to the Art Institute for some time. It is now back hanging in the Art Institute as a gift of Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. The last time I was in the Art Institute, I saw the first painting I sold for more than $1,000,000 (False Start) facing the third one (Target).
Edward James Foundation
Giorgio di Chirico, Il Sogno di Tobia (The Dream of Tobias), 1917, oil in canvas, 23 1/4 x 19 1/4 inches (59 x 49 cm), Private Collection
As a result of this - I suppose by way of a thank you - we became one of the Foundation’s unofficial dealers. The first work we were given to sell was di Chirico’s Dream of Tobias. The painting was in his retrospective at the MOMA and therefore easily viewed, making it very easy to sell through Mario Tazzoli And Massimo Martino. However that wasn’t the end of the story - I assumed, as at the time of the sale the painting was on exhibition in New York, that it had all the necessary export documents. Apparently this wasn’t the case; it was on a temporary license solely for the exhibition. After a lot of toing and froing and threats of large fines, it was agreed that I had made a genuine mistake and their client got his painting.
The next involvement with the Foundation was the exhibition of 50 works on paper by Dali that we did in conjunction with Robert Fraser. Edward James had been Dali’s sponsor in the mid and late 1930’s and therefore had at one time an enormous and extremely important collection of his work. Ed and Lindy Bergman from Chicago were in London just before the show opened and I showed them all the works where they expressed an interest in City of Drawers, Portrait Imaginaire de Lautremont a 19 ans and Formation des Montres. Unfortunately we inadvertently sold the City of Drawers to somebody else and thankfully they were very gracious about it and just bought the two drawings which are now in the Art Institute of Chicago and an oil painting by Jim Nutt.
Salvador Dali, The City of Drawers - Study for the 'Anthropomorphic Cabinet', 1936, pen and ink on copper gravure paper, 12 1/2 x 16 3/8 inches (32 x 41.5 cm), Private Collection