Billionaire Ronald Perelman to Sell Matisse and Miro Paintings in Sotheby's London Sale for £28m

American billionaire Ronald Perelman announced last week his decision to rework his investment empire as the global economy faces a tightrope walk to recovery. Apart from exploring opportunities to sell a portion of his stake, the tycoon seems to also be looking into selling his priced artworks. It is said that Perelman has put his two paintings by Joan Miró and Henri Matisse on offer for a combined total of £28m (US$53.3m). 

According to Bloomberg, the Perelman lots, namely Miró’s Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge) and Matisse’s Danseuse dans un interieur, carrelage vert et noir, will appear on the auction stage at Sotheby’s London’s evening sale on 28 July. Both Perelman’s investment company and Sotheby’s declined to respond. 

Billionaire Ronald Perelman

The mixed-category auction, titled ‘Rembrandt to Richter’, can be seen as a sale created for the coronavirus-hit economy. It offers works spanning from Old Masters paintings to Contemporary art, totalling a pre-sale estimate of £128m. British artist Bridget Riley’s 1982 abstract Cool Edge, one of the artworks sold by British Airways to ease financial stress, is also featured in this sale. For more details, please read: British Airways to sell 17 work from corporate collection in bid to stay afloat

According to Forbes, 77-year-old Perelman is worth US$7.4 billion, making him the 211th-wealthiest person in the world. He owns the investment company MacAndrews & Forbes which specialises in investments in the retail sector. The business is currently the largest shareholder of the cosmetic company Revlon and engages in a diverse array of industries, from entertainment to cosmetics, security and biotechnology industries. 

With Revlon being in the red for years and the global economy in recession, Perelman’s investment empire is on the verge of collapse. The spokesman for MacAndrews & Forbes said in a statement last week that "due to changes in the world both socially and economically”, Perelman is looking into divesting his business. This “will allow [them] to be opportunistic and flexible in looking at new situations”. Perelman is also seeking opportunities to sell his shares in Scientific Games Corp. 

Perhaps selling his priced artworks is another way to salvage Perelman’s finances. Known to be an enthusiastic art collector, especially in Contemporary art, the tycoon is said to have a collection which worths over US$1 billion and comprises works by Jeff Koon, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, and many more. 

Joan Miró , Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge), 130 x 97.2cm|Estimate: £20,000,000 - 30,000,000

The first Perelman lot which is also the leading lot of the sale is Joan Miró’s Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge). Painted in 1927 when the artist was residing in Paris, the work shows Miró’s distinctive abstract style under the influence of Surrealism. 

Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge) is part of Miró’s ‘Dream Paintings’ series. In these paintings, the artist situates the highly schematic represented motif on a monochrome background- the intensely rich blue of the sky, a symbol of the artist’s hometown Catalonia. Works from the series can be located in museums around the globe, including London’s Tate Modern, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Basel’s Fondation Beyeler. 

Peinture (Etoile Bleue) from the same series broke Miró’s auction record in 2012 at Sotheby’s London, selling for £23.6m. The lot on offer today, Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge), carries an estimate of £20m- 30m. Once sold, the painting will smash the artist’s previous auction record (including buyer’s premium).

Joan Miró Peinture (Etoile Bleue), 115.5 x 89cm|Sold at Sotheby’s London in 2012 for £23.6m 

Joan Miró

The artist is famous for his use of symbolism and metaphors which is at the same time poetic and mysterious. The current composition is full of character and offers a range of possible meanings; the red ‘hat’ could just as easily be a sardonically raised eyebrow while the white acts both as the figure’s body or a languorous plume of smoke. 

The painting was last seen on the auction stage in 1966, then acquired by artist Alexander Calder, a close friend of Miro’s. According to a Miro’s painting guide published in 1999, the work is currently owned by Revlon. 

The painting was once hanging on the wall of artist Alexander Calder’s apartment

Henri Matisse, Danseuse dans un interieur, carrelage vert et noir, 49.9 x 61cm|Estimate: £8,000,000 - 12,000,000

The other Perelman lot, Matisse’s Danseuse dans un interieur, carrelage vert et noir, carries an estimate of £8m- 12m. The Fauvism master is known for his rigorous style that emphasises flattened forms and decorative patterns. The current painting is one of his many works that feature dancers or chairs. 

The present work depicts the Italian countess Carla Avogadro in a blue dancer’s costume, sitting at the artist’s studio which he often used as a backdrop in his works. The Venetian baroque chair in the painting was purchased by Matisse at an antique shop. In a letter to his friend, the artist mentioned that he ‘bowled over’ the chair and was ‘obsessed with it’. Matisse replaced the presence of a second figure with a chair containing an array of still-life objects, creating a visual dialogue between still-life and portraiture.  

Henri Matisse, Danseuse Assise, 1942|Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

 Matisse and Italian countess Carla Avogadro 

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Rembrandt to Richter
Lots offered: 71
Sale date: 28 July 2020|6pm (GMT+1)