Sotheby’s Auction: Emily Fisher Landau’s Masterpieces

Immerse yourself in the world of art with the definitive collection of 20th-century art, carefully curated by one of the greatest patrons and collectors of the 20th century, Emily Fisher Landau.

This exceptional assembly of artistic treasures is set to take centre stage at Sotheby’s this fall, offering a rare glimpse into the creative minds of iconic artists. Among the stellar lineup are seminal works by luminaries such as Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol. Leading this remarkable ensemble is a Picasso masterpiece, poised to command attention and estimated to fetch in excess of $120 million.

The Birth of a Collector

Emily Fisher Landau, a pivotal figure in the 20th-century art world, left an indelible mark on the art scene through her passion for collecting and unwavering support for contemporary artists. Born in 1920 in Upper Manhattan, she cultivated her love for art from an early age. In this article, we delve into the extraordinary life of Emily Fisher Landau, tracing her journey from a young art enthusiast to one of the most influential collectors and patrons of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Her dedication to art, deep involvement with leading institutions, and profound relationships with artists make her legacy an integral part of the art world’s fabric.

Emily Fisher Landau: From Art Enthusiast to Collector
Sotheby’s Art Handlers Adjust Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme À La Montre’ From The Emily Fisher Landau Collection During An Unveiling At The Breuer Building In New York City On September 11, 2023 In New York City.

Emily Fisher Landau’s journey as a collector began in the late 1960s when she made her first significant art acquisition. This transformative moment occurred when she purchased a striking Alexander Calder mobile, an artwork that she carried home single-handedly on a cross-town bus. Additionally, a chance encounter with a poster advertising an upcoming Josef Albers show ignited her passion for minimalism and modern art. Her visit to the exhibition resulted in the acquisition of three major artworks.

Building a Diverse Ensemble

In 1969, Emily Fisher Landau faced an unexpected turn of events when her home was burglarized, resulting in the theft of her valuable jewellery collection. Despite this setback, she chose to use the substantial insurance payout to finance her burgeoning art collection. This pivotal decision marked the beginning of her dedicated journey into the world of art collecting.

Emily Fisher Landau: From Art Enthusiast to Collector
Robert Rauschenberg, Sundog, 1962
Silkscreen Painting, 60 x 60 inches

Emily Fisher Landau’s commitment to art led her to assemble a remarkable ensemble of artworks by acclaimed artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and more. Her collection encompassed a wide range of artistic styles, reflecting her deep appreciation for the diversity of artistic expression.

A Legacy in the Art World

In her pursuit of art, Emily Fisher Landau went beyond collecting and forged personal connections with artists. She visited their studios, engaged with their lives and work, and acquired pieces that resonated with her intuitive eye. Her close relationships with artists like Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and others provided her with unique insights into their creative processes.

Emily Fisher Landau: From Art Enthusiast to Collector
Andy Warhol, Self Portrait, 1986
Acrylic and Silkscreen on Canvas, 80 x 80 inches

Emily Fisher Landau’s adventurous spirit and unwavering commitment to contemporary artists aligned perfectly with the ethos of the Whitney Museum. Her association with the museum deepened over three decades, during which she played a vital role, including chairing the Painting and Sculpture Acquisition Committee. She championed progressive American artists and supported the Whitney Biennial exhibitions.

In addition to her involvement with museums, Emily Fisher Landau established her own Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City. Purchasing a former parachute harness factory and transforming it into a public art centre, she made her collection accessible to the public, leaving a lasting legacy of art appreciation.

Treasures of the Collection

Among Emily Fisher Landau’s prized possessions is a 1932 Picasso painting depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter, the artist’s ‘golden muse.’ This work, created at a pivotal moment in Picasso’s life, stands as a testament to their passionate love affair and artistic collaboration. The presence of a wristwatch in the painting holds symbolic significance, representing the transience of love and life.

Ed Ruscha’s text paintings, which Emily Fisher Landau avidly collected, epitomize the convergence of language and visual art in the 1960s. Ruscha’s innovative approach to everyday words elevated them to the realm of high art. “Securing the Last Letter (Boss),” a masterpiece from this series, adds a unique twist with a c-clamp, creating a striking visual effect.

Emily Fisher Landau: From Art Enthusiast to Collector
Willem De Kooning, Untitled XV, 1983
Oil on Canvas, 80 x 70 inches

Emily Fisher Landau’s collection includes Willem de Kooning’s “Untitled XV,” a 1983 painting that exemplifies the artist’s shift towards a more minimalist approach in the 1980s. This vibrant work with its fluid lines of color captures the essence of De Kooning’s evolving style.

Created just months before his passing, Andy Warhol’s 1986 Self Portrait is a reflection on mortality. It stands as a poignant testament to the Pop pioneer’s final artistic achievements. This work is intensely personal, portraying Warhol with his signature silver wig, and it is a rarity in the art market.

Conclusion

Emily Fisher Landau’s journey through the world of art is nothing short of remarkable. Her passion for collecting, unwavering support for artists, and deep involvement with leading institutions have left an enduring legacy in the art world. As her extraordinary collection goes on auction at Sotheby’s New York, it marks a historic moment that will forever be etched in the annals of art history. Emily Fisher Landau’s impact on 20th-century art continues to inspire and shape the art world for generations to come.

Images: Sotheby’s

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