Ann and Gordon Getty’s US$180m East-West art treasures to appear at charity auction

In October 2022, nearly 1,500 artworks from the prominent Ann and Gordon Getty Collection will be offered at Christie’s New York.

Spanning over four days, a series of 10 landmark sales – such as fine art, jewellery, handbags, and furniture – will be staged. Collectively, these sales are estimated at US$180 million dollars. Proceeds from this sale will benefit the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, committed to the support of arts and science organisations.

The family oil business once dominated the American economy – propelling father and son as richest men in the United States. The J. Paul Getty Museum and image supplier company, Getty Images, were also founded by the family.

Formerly housed in their San Francisco mansion, the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection will be auctioned in October 2022

The Collection comprises of an extensive range of art – such as classical oil paintings, Chinese porcelain and European furniture

So, where did this family’s riches come from?

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. 

He founded Getty Oil in the 1940s. Fluent in Arabic, Getty expanded the entreprise into the Middle East. At its culmination, he controlled more than 200 companies – with industries such as petroleum, aircraft manufacturing, finance, and hotel.

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.

Jean Paul Getty 

J. Paul Getty in 1964, in the Great Hall of Sutton Place, England

Getty's oil business empire once dominated the United States

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.

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

Gordon is an award-winning classical music composer

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. They have appeared in distinguished venues around the world, such as Carnegie Hall, New York; Royal Festival Hall, London; and Brahms Saal, Vienna. 

Ann and Gordon Getty 

Ann at her San Francisco mansion in 1977

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. 

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.  

If fully sold, the Getty’s Collection will be one of the most valuable philanthropic auctions in the United States. In 2018, the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller became the most expensive charitable auction in history. In the end, it fetched US$832 million dollars at Christie's New York. 

Here are some highlight lots from the sales:

Giovanni Antonio Canaletto | Venice, entrance to the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute at right; Oil on canvas

Estimate: US$6,000,000 – 10,000,000

Henri Matisse | Bouquet, vase chinois; Oil on canvas

Created in 1901
72.5 x 53.8 cm
Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000

Claude Monet | Lavacourt, l’hiver; Oil on canvas

Created during 1879
50.6 x 66 cm
Estimate: US$2,500,000 – 3,500,000

Bernardo Belletto | The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge from the South; Oil on canvas

60.7 x 91.5 cm
Estimate: US$2,500,000 – 3,500,000

Giovanni Boldini | Ballerine Spagnole al Moulin Rouge (Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge), Oil on canvas

Created in 1905
125.1 x 101.9 cm
Estimate: US$1,500,000 – 2,000,000

Jacques-Emile Blanche | Vaslav Nijinsky in Danse Siamoise, Oil on canvas 

Created in circa 1911 
221 x 121 cm
Estimate: US$1,000,000 – 1,500,000

Chinese Famille Rose Stupa

Six-character seal mark and of the Jiaqing period (1796-1820)  
Estimate: US$200,000 – 300,000

Pair of George II Gilt Ebony Stools

Created circa 1740
Estimate: US$150,000 – 250,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie’s New York
Sale: The Ann and Gordon Getty Collection
Dates: 10 – 25 October 2022
Live Sales: 4
Online Sales: 6