Emily Fisher Landau, who died in Palm Beach this March at the age of 102, lived a life of spectacular incident. Now her world-class art collection, which contains many pieces visitors to her ocean-view penthouse will recognize, is coming up for sale at Sotheby’s on November 8th and 9th in New York.
“Her apartment was an Aladdin’s cave of art,” one friend tells Palmer. “There was a spectacular de Kooning in the living room, but everywhere you looked was a different masterpiece by Jeff Koons or Matthew Barney; a Jasper Johns flag painting, Warhols, you name it.”
Anyone looking to take a piece home from the auction, however, is warned there may not be many bargains. Pablo Picasso’s “Femme à la Montre” (pictured below), for example, is estimated at more than $120 million.
Landau’s New York Times obituary opened with an anecdote about a real-life jewel heist that could have been the plot of a movie. In 1969, while she was out to lunch in Manhattan, “armed burglars disguised as air conditioning repairmen broke into her apartment in the Imperial House building on the Upper East Side, bound the cook in a guest closet and opened a floor safe hidden inside another closet.”
Landau took the insurance settlement from the burglary and used it to begin a blue chip art collection.
“The Collection not only tells the story of 20th-century art, but also tells the story of Emily Fisher Landau herself,” Sotheby’s writes in the sale catalogue. “Mrs. Fisher Landau’s collecting journey began in the late 1960s with the purchase of a striking Alexander Calder mobile and with a chance encounter with a poster advertising a forthcoming Josef Albers show at Pace Gallery, from which three major acquisitions followed. Mrs. Fisher Landau began to put together a major ensemble of works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Paul Klee and Louise Nevelson among others.”
In addition to the works she personally owned, Landau was also a noted art philanthropist.
“From 1991 to 2017, Ms. Landau opened her collection of 1,200 artworks to the public in the Fisher Landau Center for Art, a repurposed former factory in Long Island City, Queens,” wrote the Times. “In 2010, she pledged almost 400 works, then worth between $50 million and $75 million, to the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she had long been a trustee.”
Emily Fisher Landau portrait courtesy of the Whitney Museum