This November, Sotheby’s New York will present The Schlumberger Collection, the magnificent compendium of Modern and Contemporary masterworks acquired by distinguished collectors and benefactors, Pierre and São Schlumberger.
The collection brings together over 90 outstanding works from the Twentieth Century with a combined estimate in excess of $85 million and is led by Mark Rothko’s pivotal canvas No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange) from 1951, which has been in The Schlumberger Collection for over 40 years.
Other highlights include important Color Field, Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Surrealist works, reflecting a lifetime of collecting fueled by a singular vision and relationships with artists forged over decades.
Highlights will be on view in Hong Kong and London before the entire collection will be installed together in Sotheby’s New York headquarters for a special two-day preview exhibition from 22-24 October before being showcased in our main exhibitions of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art from 31 October to 11 November.
The Collection will be offered in the Evening and Day Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art on 4 & 5 and 11 & 12 November, respectively.
Oliver Barker, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe commented: “Pierre and São Schlumberger belonged to one of the most important collecting dynasties of all time, but their vision was entirely their own: a unique aesthetic that blended their European roots with their American experience.
“Pierre’s early passion for the modern masters combined with São’s engagement with some of the key artists of the Twentieth Century to produce one of the most important private collections of our time, and helped prominent institutions including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Centre Georges Pompidou to acquire major masterworks.
“For several decades, the Schlumbergers were at the center of both New York and Paris society, and hosted such luminaries as Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol and Rudolph Nureyev in their homes around the world. It is a tremendous honor to share their extraordinary legacy with collectors this autumn.”
Pierre & São Schlumberger are considered two of the most visionary collectors of the Twentieth Century. A successful businessman from one of France’s most distinguished families, Pierre led the company founded by his father, Marcel, and uncle, Conrad, inventors of wireline logging, which is still the primary method used to locate and retrieve oil deposits from the earth’s subsurface all over the world.
Pierre Schlumberger had already amassed a superlative collection of Modern art, inspired in part by his uncle, including works by Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian, paralleling that of hiscousin Dominique de Menil by the time he married São in 1961. Working closely with influential Post-War art dealers Alexander Iolas and Ileana Sonnabend, and nurturing close relationships with artists, São expanded the collection to include contemporary works by a range of artists including Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg, whose sculpture Oracle is now in the Pompidou Center collection.
As leading figures in Parisian and New York society, the Schlumbergers were major benefactors of the arts, helping to fund the restoration of Versailles, backing Robert Wilson’s early avant-garde operas and becoming the first patrons to commission Warhol for a silkscreen portrait. They sat on the boards of the Pompidou Center, where they donated works by Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, and were patrons of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Lincoln Center and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to which they donated a major Piet Mondrian grid painting.
Their close circle also included some of the most prominent collectors of the day, including La duchesse de Bedford, Gunter Sachs, Gianni Agnelli, and, Ronald and Leonard Lauder.
The couple’s many residences expressed their distinctive tastes in art and design. The renowned architect of his time, Pierre Barbe, architect of the House in Chantilly for the Aga Khan, was a close friend of Pierre Schlumberger.
Barbe was commissioned to rebuild the mansion on the Rue Férou near the Luxembourg Gardens which was decorated by Valerian Rybar and Daiere in an audacious and colorful blend of contemporary and classic styles.
The home became a salon for artists such as Rauschenberg, Christo, Man Ray, Dalí, and Lichtenstein. The Schlumbergers’ other residences included a 100-acre estate in Portugal, where the couple once entertained 1,500 guests at the famous “Le Dolce Vita” ball, including Audrey Hepburn and Gina Lollobrigida; the David Hicksdesigned Cap Ferrat estate, “Le Clos Fiorentina,” one of the French Rivera’s most beautiful villas; and a stunning Sutton Place apartment in New York. Wherever they were, Pierre and São were an irresistible magnet for a cadre of artists, designers, performers and society luminaries.