November 17, 2017
The Eppler Collection includes a comprehensive representation of leading 20th Century artists, including important Abstract Expressionist works by such artists as Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Alexander Calder and others. Friedlander noted that every piece of art bought by Heinz and Ruthe Eppler as they collected through the 1970’s and 80’s was lived with, displayed in their home to enjoy.
At the same time, their collecting activity represented an astute investment. “I don’t think it diminishes your enjoyment of and engagement with the work to have an expectation that it will maintain or grow its value,” said Bloomberg’s Tarmy.
The Epplers, he added, “were people who were buying at the top – and the collection did very well.” Citing the multi-million dollar pre-sale estimate for the collection, he noted that “when you buy at the top, you have a better chance of seeing return” on the investment than you might with works that are lower priced, and therefore more risky.
Christie’s Porter agreed – with a caveat. “Buying at the top is good, but only if the field in question stays in fashion,” he said. That can be a matter of time, he added – in the world of art, the most sought-after styles shift and often re-emerge.
Rarity can also be a factor in the size of a collecting market, Porter said; the number of people interested in given market generally correlates to the amount of pieces available.
For the type of work found in the Eppler Collection, the market is global, Friedlander noted. The collection was previewed in Hong Kong first, where it drew strong interest, before coming to New York, she said.
“The Asian market, particularly mainland China, has grown dramatically,” added Porter. He noted Christie’s commitment to bringing artworks to the region, where auction exhibitions can function almost as proxies for museums.
And the market for the Abstract Expressionist art the Epplers loved is expanding. “We’re seeing people who are buying into the idea of the collection,” Friedlander said, noting that artists who haven’t previously been featured in evening sales – including Louise Nevelson, Lee Krasner and Milton Avery – will be this week.
The event concluded with a private viewing of the Eppler Collection, as well as additional works to be included in the 20th Century Week sales. That included the rediscovered masterpiece “Salvatore Mundi” – one of fewer than 20 surviving paintings accepted as from Leonardo da Vinci’s hand, which ultimately sold for a record-shattering $450 million at Wednesday’s evening sale.
And what did the panelists love? From the Eppler Collection, Lee Krasner’s “Shattered Light” and Alexander Calder’s “Calderoulette” were highlights for all three. “There are all these ineffable ways to enjoy and receive value from art,” said Bloomberg’s Tarmy. In an age where experiences trump acquisition for many people, that might be the best investment of all.