Ann and Gordon Getty's collection pulls in US$79.4m with every lots sold

Last night, Christie’s New York held their first of four live auctions devoted to the US$180-million collection of Ann and Gordon Getty and saw all 58 lots sold to buyers after two lots were withdrawn.

The multi-category sale generated a total of US$79.4 million, with proceeds benefitting the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, committed to the support of arts and science organisations.

Auctioneer Tash Perrin

Ann and Gordon Getty's mansion

Lot 14 | Giovanni Antonio Canaletto | Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute, Oil on canvas 
133.4 x 165.4 cm
Estimate: US$6,000,000 – 10,000,000

As the sale begun, auctioneer Tash Perrin, Deputy Chairman, surprised everyone in the room upon announcing the withdrawal of the highest-estimated lot, Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute, an 18th-century classical oil painting depicting the cityscape of Venice with an estimate between US$6 and 10 million. 

The reason behind it, however, has proved Getty's collection to be of museum-quality: it was acquired by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco through a private sale in the hours leading up to the auction. 

Before we look through the highlights of the sale, let us first revisit the collecting journey of the Getty family. 

Ann & Gordan Getty 

The Getty family's ancestry can be traced back to Scottish-Irish roots, when they moved from England to the United States. During the early 20th century, the family managed an oil business empire – catapulting the Getty name into the highest echelon of society. 

During the late 1950s, Forbes named Jean Paul as the richest living American. Then, in 1966, Guinness World Records named him as the world’s richest private citizen. When he died in the 1970s, his net worth was estimated to be more than US$6 billion dollars.

Alongside his many businesses, Jean Paul was also an avid art collector during the late 1930s. Inspired by the landlord of his New York City's apartment, a relative of Winston Churchill, he took an interest in collecting 18th century French paintings and furniture.

Jean-Paul Getty, Gordon Getty's father

Since then, Jean Paul expanded his collection into an extensive range of art. According to his 1965 autobiography, The Joys of Collecting, he took a fondness of oeuvres such as Greco-Roman antiquities, Renaissance art painting and 16th century Persian carpets. His art collection of more than 600 pieces was housed between his eponymous museum and his Tudor manor house in Surrey, England known as Sutton Place, where he lived out his days.

After his death, these oeuvres were transferred to the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection and Getty Villa in Los Angeles.

Located in Los Angeles, the Getty Museum is housed in two campuses – Getty Centre and Getty Villa

Built in a classical architectural style, Getty Villa has now become a tourist spot to take photos

In 1983, Forbes magazine ranked Jean Paul’s fourth son, Gordon Getty, as the richest person in America with a net worth of around US$2 billion dollars.

After his father's death, Gordon took the reins of the family oil business. But he eventually sold Getty Oil to Texaco in 1986 – three years after being crowned America’s richest man. He later became a classical music composer and aspired to be an opera singer. Awarded the prestigious European Culture Prize in 2019, Gordon created many vocal works like Joan and the Bells and Plump Jack

His wife, Ann, was a devoted benefactor of artistic and scientific causes. She served on the boards and was patron of distinguished American cultural institutions – such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York University, San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2020, she passed away of a heart attack aged 79. 

Ann at her San Francisco mansion in 1977

Ann and Gordon Getty's mansion

Together, the couple had an extensive collection, which is reflected in this series of auctions – such as classical oil paintings, Impressionist and Modern art, 18th century Chinese porcelain, as well as British and European furniture. 

Among the sale's highlights was 19th-century American female Impressionist Mary Cassatt's Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right, a beloved personal gift from Gordon to Ann, which she hung prominently in their bedroom. Attracting a multiple of bidders, the painting sold for US$7.4 million against a low estimate of US$3 million to become the sale’s most expensive lot – and also set an auction record for the artist. 

Lot 3 | Mary Cassatt | Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right, Pastel, gouache, watercolor and charcoal with metallic paint on paper
(Record for artist)

Created circa 1878-79
64.1 x 50.5 cm

  • The artist
  • Paul and Mette Gauguin, Paris and Copenhagen, acquired from the above, by 1884
  • Edvard Brandes, Copenhagen, Denmark, brother-in-law of the above, acquired from the above, by 1911
  • Dr. Alfred Gold, Berlin, Germany, acquired from the above, 1928
  • Elizabeth Paine Card, Fairhaven, Massachusetts, acquired from the above, circa 1930-35
  • Private collection, New England, by descent from the above
  • Estate of the above
  • Sotheby's, New York, 10 November 1992, lot 7, sold by the above
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above

Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Hammer Price: US$6,200,000
Sold: US$7,489,000 

The only American artist to exhibit at the 1879 Impressionist exhibition, Mary Cassatt's works of the late 1870s revamped the popular Impressionist concentration on modern Parisian life through her unique lens as a female expatriate.

Defying the patriarchal male gaze, Cassatt created a series of paintings where upper-class leisured women in the public field – theatres and operas in particular – were depicted not only as objects of male attention and desire, but also gazers on their own.

In Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right, the subject seats in her theater box in isolation from the implied crowds of the societal spectacle. With her gaze directed off to the side, Cassatt baits the viewer’s curiosity about what unseen subject on the stage or in the seats is drawing her attention away.

The National Gallery of Art | Mary Cassatt, The Loge, 1878-80

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston | Mary Cassatt, In the Loge, 1878

There are nine works in the series, with six preserved in museums including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Her innovative works captured the eye of many established Impressionists, among which was Paul Guguin, the original owner of the present painting. After viewing another work in the same series, he reflected "Mlle Cassatt has as much charm, but she has more power” than her female contemporaries. 

A museum-quality work, the present painting is scheduled to be exhibited in the Royal College of Art from November 2023 to March 2024. 

Lot 25 | Henri Matisse | Bouquet, vase chinois, Oil on canvas
Created in 1901
72.5 x 53.8 cm

  • Ambroise Vollard, Paris (1901)
  • Mme Bruneau, Paris
  • Galerie Bernheim Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 29 June 1917)
  • Galerie Mancini, Paris (acquired from the above, 28 July 1917)
  • (possibly) Mnavzagan Pridonoff, Paris
  • (possibly) Galerie Eugène Druet, Paris
  • Dr. Jacques Soubiès, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 14 June 1928, lot 73
  • Private collection, France (acquired at the above sale, then by descent); sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1995, lot 123
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale

Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Hammer Price: US$4,200,000
Sold: US$5,100,000

Coming second in place was Fauvism master Henri Matisse's Bouquet, vase chinois, which was hammered for US$4.2 million and brought in US$5.1 million with fees. The work was formerly hung on the staircase of the Getty's San Francisco house, holding a central place in their collection. 

Painted in 1901, the present painting presciently anticipates some of the most radical aspects of the artist’s oeuvre. At the time, Matisse was gradually making a name for himself in the art world of Paris. Throughout this period, Matisse painted a number of floral still lifes, a subject which later became one of his most well-known, perennial theme. 

Picturing bunches of chrysanthemums, ranunculi, or sunflowers — all relatively affordable flowers that were easy to come by — Matisse refined his artistic vision with a palette of vibrant color, applied with thick, lavish brushstrokes. 

Bouquet, vase chinois was included in Matisse’s first one-man show held at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in June 1904.

Lot 7 | A pair of massive Chinese cloisonné and champlevé enamel crane-form censers
Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century 
Height: 231 and 235 cm

  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, Paris, 18-19 November 2002, lot 511
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above

Estimate: US$80,000 – 120,000
Hammer Price: US$1,300,000
Sold: US$1,620,000

An unexpected highlight of the night came during the fierce competition for a pair of Chinese cloisonné crane-form censers. Bidding opened at US$70,000 and it drew nearly 47 bids to be hammered for US$1.3 million, 16.25 times its low estimate. After fees, it fetched US$1.62 million. 

Cloisonné was introduced to China from Western Asia as early as the Yuan dynasty (1206AD – 1368AD). It’s a technique where copper or bronze wires are bent or curved to outline the decorative pattern painted with enamels.

Known for its bright colour, rich lustre and endurance, cloisonné work was mostly displayed in the imperial court during Ming and Qing dynasties, thus often being considered royal art. Created during 18th-19th century, the present censers are designed in the form of cranes, symbols of longevity. 

Two pairs of cloisonné crane-form censers sold for a record-smashing HK$129 million (around US$16.5 million)

When it comes to cloisonné crane-form censers, however, Chinese works of art lovers would instantly recall the pairs from the Fonthill collection – which sold for a record-smashing HK$129 million (around US$16.5 million) to Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau during Christie's Hong Kong autumn sales in 2010. 

With a strong provenance, the pairs were created during Yongzheng period (1722 - 1735) and no other extant examples could be found. 

Other Highlight Lots:

Lot 24 | Odilon Redon | Le pavot noir, Oil on canvas
73 x 54 cm

  • Louis Bernard, France
  • Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, September 1916)
  • Bernheim-Jeune Fils, Paris (acquired from the above, March 1918)
  • Prince Antoine Bibesco, Paris (circa 1934)
  • Private collection, France (by 1994); sale, Sotheby's, London, 27 June 1995, lot 9
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale

Estimate: US$1,000,000 – 1,500,000
Hammer Price: US$3,100,000
Sold: US$3,780,000

Lot 37 | Giovanni Antonio Canaletto | Venice, the Grand Canal looking South, from the Ca' Da Mosto toward the Rialto Bridge, Oil on canvas
60.8 x 95.5 cm

  • Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton (1685-1754), and presumably by descent though one of his three illegitimate sons (see below) by the actress, Lavinia Fenton, whom he married in 1751, to,
  • Mrs. Poulett by whom sold with the three companion pictures
  • Acquired by 1829 on the recommendation of [John] Seguier by the Rev. Sir Samuel Clarke-Jervoise, 1st Bt. (c.1770-1852), Idsworth Park, Hampshire, as recorded by his son Sir Jeremiah Clarke-Jervoise, 2nd Bt. (1804-1889) in an initialled note of 12 February 1855 (see below), and by descent through him to,
  • Sir Dudley Clarke-Jervoise, 7th and last Bt. (1876-1935), and by inheritance at Idsworth to,
  • Major Arthur Francis Clarke-Jervoise, D.L., J.P. (1882-1974); (†), his sale, Christie’s, 27 June 1975, lot 6 (29,000 guineas to Leadbeater)
  • Private collection, Zurich
  • with Colnaghi, New York, by 1983
  • with Eugene V. Thaw, New York, by 1984
  • with Harari and Johns Ltd., London, until 1987,
  • Acquired by Anne and Gordon Getty from the above

Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Hammer Price: US$3,100,000
Sold: US$3,780,000

Lot 18 | Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684 - 1721 Nogent-sur-Marne) | Three head studies of a girl wearing a hat, Black and red chalk, graphite, watermark with letters ‘[…OA…ENE]’
14 x 24.7 cm

  • Private collection, Switzerland
  • with Eugene V. Thaw & Co., New York
  • John R. Gaines (1929-2005), Kentucky; Sotheby’s, New York, 17 November 1986, lot 22
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above

Estimate: US$1,500,000 – 2,500,000
Hammer Price: US$2,800,000
Sold: US$3,420,000

Lot 20 | Antonio Joli (Modena C. 1700 - 1777 Naples) | A capriccio with the French Ambassador approaching the King of Siam’s Palace in a state barge, in October 1685, featuring the White Porcelain Pagoda, from Nanjing, China, on the left, Oil on canvas
Record for artist

113 x 147.3 cm

  • (Probably) Sir John C.E. Shelley Rolls (1871-1951); (†), James Harris & Son, Winchester, 24 July 1951, lot 535
  • Anonymous sale; Palais Galliera, Paris, 26 May 1963, lot 1
  • Anonymous sale; Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, Hotel George V, 29 June 1988, lot 14
  • Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 4 July 1990, lot 11,
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above

Estimate: US$800,000 - 1,200,000
Hammer Price: US$2,700,000
Sold: US$3,300,000

Lot 4 | Claude Monet | Lavacourt, l’hiver, Oil on canvas
Created during 1879
50.6 x 66 cm

  • Paul Vayson de Pradenne, Paris (acquired from the artist, January 1879)
  • Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 15 March 1890)
  • Cyrus J. Lawrence, New York (acquired from the above, 26 December 1891); Estate sale, American Art Association, New York, 21 January 1910, lot 67
  • Schuyler and Julia Schieffelin, New York (acquired at the above sale)
  • Cooper and Frances Schieffelin, New York (by descent from the above); Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 12 May 1987, lot 34
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale

Estimate: US$2,500,000 – 3,500,000
Hammer Price: US$2,600,000
Sold: US$3,180,000

Lot 9 | Jacques-Emile Blanche | Vaslav Nijinsky in Danse Siamoise, Oil on canvas 
Created in circa 1911 
221 x 121 cm

  • The artist
  • The Honorable Daisy Fellowes (Mrs. Reginald Fellowes, 1890-1963), Paris, acquired directly from the above at the Salon of 1911
  • By descent through her family
  • Their sale; Christie's, London, 28 November 1986, lot 103, as Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Danse Orientale.'
  • Daniel Katz, London
  • Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 25 May 1995, lot 64, as Vaslav Nijinsky in Michel Fokine's 'Danse Siamoise' from the divertissement 'Les Orientales', or 'Le Baiser Sacramentel de l'Idole.'
  • Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above.

Estimate: US$1,000,000 – 1,500,000
Hammer Price: US$2,200,000
Sold: US$2,700,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie's New York
Sale: The Ann & Gordon Getty Collection: Volume 1 | Important Pictures and Decorative Arts, Evening Sale
Date: 20 October 2022
Number of Lots: 58
Sold: 58
Sale Rate: 100%
Sale Total: US$79,408,900