On Monday, Sept. 15, mere hours after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in New York City, Sotheby’s was throwing open the doors of its London headquarters for the most extravagant sale in the auction house’s history. The sale, of 223 new artworks by Damien Hirst, brought in more than $200 million — nearly 10 times the total receipts of the previous record-holder for a single artist, a 1993 auction of 88 Picassos that reaped around $20 million. It was a level of consumption that, particularly when viewed against the concurrent collapse of the financial-services industry, almost immediately acquired a nostalgic air, the last gasp of the art boom.
Jose Mugrabi said about this
Warhol, “As long as I am here,
it will be in my home.”
The Mugrabis own what is believed to be one of the largest and most valuable private collections of art in the world. By their estimate, it includes more than 3,000 works.
(...) The core of their collection is a staggering 800 works by Andy Warhol — and roughly 100 each by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Wesselmann and George Condo.
THE OVERWHELMING majority of the Mugrabi collection — of their 3,000 works, all but about 200 at a time — resides out of public view, in two warehouses they rent, one in Newark and the other near Geneva. Alberto said it was the only practical solution for a collection of its size, particularly with large pieces like the Hirst tank installations. “Sadly, the whole thing has to be dismantled and drained,” he said. “The sharks and the sheep need to be refrigerated.”
As private dealers, the Mugrabis do not own a gallery or represent artists. They buy or sell works in about 100 art auctions annually, nearly one every three days (sometimes, with smaller auctions, they bid via phone). And the rest of the time, they buy and sell through galleries and fellow dealers. “We’re market makers,” Alberto said. “You can’t have an impact buying one or two pictures per artist. We’re not buying art like Ron Lauder — just to put it on a wall. We want inventory.”