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Donor Intent Violation: Sotheby’s to Auction Denver’s Four Clyfford Stills on Nov. 9

Why am I not surprised? This just hit my inbox from Sotheby’s:

Sotheby’s is delighted to announce that four masterworks by the celebrated American Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still will headline the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. The paintings come from the Estate of Patricia Still and are being sold by the City and County of Denver.

They are expected to realize a combined total in excess of $50 million, and are being sold to further support the endowment of the new Clyfford Still Museum, which is scheduled to open to the public in Denver on Nov. 18, 2011.

The total presale estimate for the four works is $51-71.5 million. The Still Museum, which opens Nov. 18, had previously indicated that it needed to raise only $25 million for the endowment. I guess they’ve opted for a fatter cushion.

As I previously observed when I divulged the details of Denver’s agreement with Sotheby’s, the absurdly small window of time (a matter of days, with a Sept. 19 deadline) for selling the paintings to one or more museums through private sale all but guaranteed that they would wind up at public auction. The supposed museum-purchase option was mere window-dressing.

Here, at last, are some decent images of the four works being sold (with court permission) in violation of the no-sale stipulations in the wills of the artist and his widow:

“1949-A-No.1,” 93 by 79 in.
Presale estimate: $25-35 million

“1947-Y-No. 2,” 69.5 by 59 in.
Presale estimate: $15-20 million

“(PH-1033),” 1976, 93.5 by 83 in.
Presale estimate: $10-15 million

“(PH-351),” 1940
Presale estimate: $1-1.5 million

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