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Still Chill: Sotheby’s to Help Clyfford Still Museum Monetize Four of the Artist’s Works

Still3.jpg
Clyfford Still Museum
Photograph by Jeremy Bitterman

The in-construction Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, which received court approval in March to sell four of the artist’s paintings that came from the estate of his wife, Patricia, announced last night that the City and County of Denver, which officially own the works, have engaged Sotheby’s to get the deal done. It has not yet been stated whether the works will be sold privately or at auction.

The press release about the arrangement (not on the museum’s website at this writing) states:

Sotheby’s is currently working with the City [of Denver] to determine a strategy for the sale of these works that is consistent with the objectives of the City and the Clyfford Still Museum.

The chief “objective” is to make up for the museum’s failure to raise sufficient funds for an endowment that could adequately support its annual operating budget. When I visited the construction site with director Dean Sobel in February, the operating budget was estimated to be $2 million for the 30,000-square-foot museum, designed by Brad Cloepfil and scheduled to open on Nov. 18. Sobel had told me in February that he hoped to keep the four paintings together and “in the public domain.”

As of this writing, the images of the four paintings to be sold have not yet been released. 

As I previously wrote here, these paintings, which would otherwise have been part of the museum’s collection, are being monetized against the express wishes of the artist and his widow, who stipulated in their wills that none of the works could be sold.

The museum is scheduled to open on Nov. 18. Here’s an excerpt from the announced plans for its first displays:

The museum’s inaugural exhibition will feature approximately 110 works
drawn from the Still collection [of some 2,400 works], exploring both his early arrival at
complete abstraction as well as the ongoing significance of figuration
on his later work. The exhibition will include a number of
never-before-displayed paintings, works on paper, and objects from
Still’s personal archives, as well as the only three Still sculptures in
existence.

an ArtsJournal blog