A. Alfred Taubman's art collection found a temporary home at the Detroit Institute of Arts, but after his death, several key pieces in his collection will be auctioned off.
When Pontiac-born philanthropist, property developer and billionaire A. Alfred Taubman passed away at the age of 91 in April, he left behind an impressive legacy and a tremendous art collection. The Detroit News reported that Taubman’s collection is estimated to accumulate approximately $500 million in its entirety. The money will be used to settle estate taxes and fund the Taubman Foundation.
His art collection includes eight paintings that had been on loan to the DIA. They will be sold by renowned auctioneers Sotheby’s. According to the Detroit Free Press, Taubman did not leave the DIA any works of art nor cash, despite his kinship and service during life.
When asked to comment, multiple DIA representatives in various departments have expressed that the DIA has chosen to remain quiet about the recent news. Each repeated the same words: "it’s a family matter.”
“Since the eight paintings are being auctioned, you never know who’s going to get them," said Shelby Wright, a Wayne State junior majoring in art and art history. "If they are sent to private collections, the public may not see them again. You never know what a piece might trigger; losing any piece is sad because they all have so much potential to inspire … it’s disappointing.”
Many art lovers and DIA patrons are saddened by this news despite the fact that these eight paintings are hardly top-selling commodities in comparison to the rest of Taubman’s collection — which includes pieces by Picasso, Raphael, Rothko and de Kooning.
“We would like them to stay in Detroit, they enhance the DIA’s collection; they are fine examples of art,” said Dennis Nawrocki, WSU art and art history adjunct faculty member. “They add more content, more breath, and they suggest that the art of lesser known artists are just as important.”
Notoriety in the arts can come from various sources. While these eight paintings may not have been the most publicly revered, their absence will be felt at the DIA.
Nawrocki said provenance, or the history of an object from who owned it to where it was made, can affect the value and allure of a painting.
“The artist, collector and the museum can all play a role in the specialness of the work,” he said.
These paintings were valued, not just because of the fortune of the man that collected them or even the skills of the artists that painted them. In the eyes of the Detroiters that enjoyed them at the DIA, they were made remarkable by the atmosphere the museum provided.
“The DIA is one of the best art museums in the country, and it’s right in our backyard," said Sarah Moss, a WSU junior majoring in fine arts with concentrations in graphic design and drawing. "As an art student, it’s gold … it almost feels like home. It’s comforting in a way, but if the DIA loses any more paintings their collection will only get smaller.”
The DIA will be saying goodbye to the following works: "Rape of the Sabine Women" (1605-15) by Jacopo Ligozzi, Italian; "Musical Company" (1661) by Hendrik Martensz Sorgh, Dutch; "Penitent Magdalene"(1648-55) by Guercino, Italian; "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery"(1626) by Pietro da Cortona, Italian; "Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine of Siena" (1525) by Domenico Beccafumi, Italian; "Christ Disputing with Doctors"(1633-40) by Matthias Stom, Dutch; "Jesus Preaching to the Disciples"(1618-35) by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Italian; and "The Crowning with Thorns" (1620) by Valentin de Boulogne, French.
The paintings are currently still on public display at the DIA; however, they will be due in New York soon. Museum goers still have some time to enjoy the Taubman pieces, but should keep in mind that The Detroit News has reported the official Sotheby's auction dates as Nov. 4, 5, 18 and Jan. 27.