Emily and Mitchell Rales Bought Record-Breaking $11.7 M. Lee Krasner Work at Sotheby’s Last Week

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Lee Krasner’s The Eye Is the First Circle, 1960, sold for $11.7 million.
Lee Krasner’s The Eye Is the First Circle, 1960, sold for $11.7 million.

In the days after any auction week, speculation on exactly who bought some of the marquee works is always high. Indeed, in a profile in yesterday’s New York Times, the paper of record speculated as to the client for whom dealer Robert Mnuchin purchased the $91.1 million Rabbit by Jeff Koons. While the most likely one is Steven A. Cohen, one name that circulated was Mitchell Rales.

Earlier today, Wall Street Journal reporter Kelly Crow wrote on Instagram about a conversation she had with Rales backstage at the WSJ Future of Everything Conference, during which Rales, who has been on the ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list since 2002, told her that while he was not the buyer of the Koons work, he and his wife, Emily, had purchased a different record-setting work at last week’s auctions: Lee Krasner’s The Eye Is the First Circle (1960) for their Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, to the tune of $11.7 million.

Reached by phone, a representative for the Raleses and Glenstone confirmed the purchase to ARTnews.

When The Eye Is the First Circle sold last week at Sotheby’s in New York, it shattered Krasner’s previous auction record of $5.5 million, which was set in 2017 at Christie’s New York. The piece is one of several large-scale works (it measures more than 20 feet across) that the artist completed in the years after the death of husband and fellow Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, as well as the death of her mother. On May 30, the Barbican in London will open a hotly anticipated retrospective of Krasner’s work.

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