Stair Brings the Collection of Art Historian Sir John Richardson to Auction

James Ardis
Published on
Sir John Richardson at the Gagosian Gallery in 2014. Photo by The New York Times.
Sir John Richardson at the Gagosian Gallery in 2014. Photo by The New York Times.

Sir John Richardson’s decades-long friendship with Pablo Picasso grew with visits to the artist’s Vallauris home. “We were regularly going to see Picasso,” the late Richardson recalled. “He was very generous to me. He sensed somehow that I was going to write about him.”

His close relationship with Picasso allowed Richardson to produce a definitive four-volume biography about the artist. But Richardson’s impact on the art world went beyond Picasso. He wrote about artists, critics, and the social circles surrounding them in such books as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1999) and Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (2001). He gave a eulogy at Andy Warhol’s funeral and rented an apartment to Greta Garbo in the 1960s. W Magazine called him “the man all New York wants to sit beside at dinner.”

From the personal collection of Sir John Richardson. Photo courtesy of Stair.
From the personal collection of Sir John Richardson. Photo courtesy of Stair.

On September 16th and 17th, 2020, Stair will offer over 500 pieces from the personal collection of Sir John Richardson. Categories across the spectrum will be represented in this two-day sale, including both fine and decorative art, as well as collectibles. Stair notes that the lots also range “from the serious and academic, to the lighthearted and whimsical.”

Among the lots representing the serious and academic on day one is a model of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (estimate: USD 3,000 – $5,000). The Roman temple served many functions over the centuries, including as a meeting place for the Senate of the Roman Republic and a chamber of Caligula’s palace. Now, most of what remains of the temple are the three columns that this model depicts.

Model of The Temple of Castor and Pollux. Photo courtesy of Stair.
Model of The Temple of Castor and Pollux. Photo courtesy of Stair.

Day one of the event will also make available portraits by Thomas Frye (estimate: $6,000 – $9,000), including one of George III of Great Britain. George III was the King of Great Britain and Ireland during both the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Richardson purchased this and 17 other Frye portraits from Christie’s during World War II.

Several lots will represent Pablo Picasso in this event, including a signed, painted, and glazed stone tomette by the artist (estimate: $1,500 – $3,000). Also available is a photograph of Picasso’s grandson, Bernard Picasso (estimate: $800-$1,200). Bernard co-founded the Musée Picasso and has dedicated much of his life to the preservation and education of his grandfather’s work.

David McDermott & Peter McGough: Bernard Picasso. Photo courtesy of Stair.
David McDermott & Peter McGough: Bernard Picasso. Photo courtesy of Stair.

Day two will feature several contemporary pieces, including untitled works in latex and rubber by Alexander Hoda. One of those pieces, pictured below, fuses limbs and parts that are equally human, animal, and industrial (estimate: $1,500 – $3,000). For Hoda, this blurred line, particularly between humans and animals, is a recurring theme. “We have a fascination with animals; they act as a mirror to ourselves,” says the artist. “In some ways we’re able to understand the way we act in terms of animals.”

Untitled Alexander Hoda piece. Photo courtesy of Stair.
Untitled Alexander Hoda piece. Photo courtesy of Stair.

Another creator whose work experiments with distortion and unconventional materials is French artist César, whose untitled piece (estimate: $1,500 – $3,000) is available on day two. César was an emerging young artist when Richardson’s then-partner, Douglas Cooper, decided to include César’s work in his personal collection.

Brought up in poverty, César typically utilized found objects such as metal scraps for his art. In this untitled piece, though, César uses more conventional materials to produce a distorted cast of a human head. Below the eye line, the subject’s face appears to melt away.

Untitled César piece. Photo courtesy of Stair.
Untitled César piece. Photo courtesy of Stair.

Day one of the John Richardson: A Scholar Collects event begins on September 16th, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT. The second day will follow at the same time on September 17th. Register to bid and view each of the lots for both day one and day two on Bidsquare.