What started as an exciting estate appraisal for me has blossomed into one of the most anticipated single owner sales of American abstract expressionism. Eighteen important works of modern art collected by Gilbert and Lee Bachman will be sold at an auction scheduled for noon on Monday, June 4, 2018, at Freeman’s Auction House, 1808 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.

The Bachmans spent many years compiling a collection that includes major works by Hans Hofmann, Louise Nevelson, Willem de Kooning and Fernando Botero. Original purchase receipts demonstrate the stellar provenance of the works. In addition, several were exhibited in important institutions like The Whitney and owned by Clement Greenberg, arguably the most significant art critic of Abstract Expressionism.

Provenance is important because at any point in its history a work of art’s authenticity can be called into question. A detailed provenance record authenticates the artwork and gives an insight into the history of past owners of the work, both of which may impact the value and desirability of the piece. For example, the value of works owned by Elizabeth Taylor, in the Taubman Collection and in the Rockefeller collection skyrocketed because these works are more desirable because the previous owners were famous.

Their exhibition history and record of ownership will make these 18 works highly desired by collectors and institutions. The sale will consist of paintings, sculptures and works on paper.

A member of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Engineering Hall of Fame, Gilbert was chairman, chief executive officer and majority stockholder of printing powerhouse Dittler Brothers in Atlanta. He and his wife, Lee, were active in several community organizations, including the Atlanta Humane Society, the Atlanta Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the Atlanta Jewish Federation.

Auction highlights include:

  • “Cinquecento” (estimated value $300,000-500,000), a large canvas by American abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler.
  • Three works by Hans Hofman: “Phantasie in Red” (estimate: $20,000-30,000), “Cataclysm (Homage to Howard Putzel)” (estimate: $150,000-250,000) and “Composition #43” (estimate: $150,000-250,000), which was previously in the collection of art critic Clement Greenberg, who championed abstract expressionism from its earliest days.
  • Two black painted wood sculptures by Louise Nevelson, a student of Hofmann and one of the leading figures in American sculpture of the 20th century: “Dream House Wall II” (estimate: $250,000-400,000), comprised of eight separate painted wood components; and “Cascades – Perpendiculars XII” (estimate: $50,000-80,000).
  • “Head #3” (estimate: $250,000-400,000), a bronze by abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning.
  • “Dog,” (estimate: $120,000-180,000), a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who was executed in 1981. Botero, who received several international awards, portrays his subjects in exaggerated, rotund form.
  • “Woman in White Wicker Rocker” (estimate: $100,000-150,000) and “Nude Torso” (estimate: $2,000-3,000), sculptures by George Segal who is best known for his life-size plaster figures.
  • Two fantastic wall sculptures by Lynda Benglis who invented a new format with her celebrated “pours,” which resembled paintings but came off the wall to occupy the space of sculpture.

These works will be on view from May 30 until the auction on June 4.