Gordon and Ann Getty
Gordon and Ann Getty in 1998 | Credit: Bruce Forrester

Over the weekend, Christie’s months-long online and four-day live auction of some 1,500 artworks from the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection concluded, netting an estimated $200 million in proceeds. All funds will go to the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, which is committed to the support of arts, education, and science organizations.

No sales total was released at the time of this writing, but the initial estimate was $180 million, and most sales of items far exceeded pre-auction estimates.

Benjamin Sutton reports in The Art Newspaper that the Thursday live auction alone brought in close to $80 million (all figures here include fees). Mary Cassatt’s Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right had a presale estimate of $3 million to $5 million, but it sold for $7.4 million to Pola Museum of Art in Kanagawa, Japan.

A portrait of actress Sarah Bernhardt by Jules Bastien-Lepage sold for $2.2 million, quadruple its estimate of $500,000. Édouard Manet’s small painting of a dog “Bob” more than doubled its estimate of $600,000.

Canaletto’s painting of Venice’s Grand Canal
Dede Wilsey’s present to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum: Canaletto’s painting of Venice’s Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute

One sale especially meaningful to San Francisco was Diane B. Wilsey’s purchase of a 1750 Canaletto painting of Venice that was part of the Getty Collection. Wilsey bought the painting, which had a presale estimate between $6 million and $10 million, for an undisclosed sum and donated it to the European Painting collection in the Legion of Honor.

Paintings were only part of the auction, which included decorative furnishings, jewelry, European ceramics, Chinese porcelain, silver, European and Asian textiles, and a velvet sofa previously owned by Rudolf Nureyev.

Town & Country described the auction scene in New York: “For the past several weeks, artisans have been rushing around Christie’s New York headquarters in Rockefeller Center painting faux stone walls, building bedrooms, hanging wallpaper, and carefully installing antique furniture, rare paintings and sculptures, fragile textiles, and all manner of decorative art.

“The creative team at Christie’s decided to group items as they appeared in the Getty’s home, both to underscore the connection to the celebrated society couple and to take advantage of the late Ann Getty’s curatorial savvy. ‘She had an amazing eye for individual pieces,’ said Jonathan Rendell, Christie’s deputy chairman. ‘But you can’t really understand the full extent of her genius until you see how she placed them all together.’”

Gordon Getty, 88, announced the formation of the Foundation in May, to be supported by the proceeds from the sale of his late wife’s art collection.

Getty, one the world’s most eminent supporters of the arts — including SF Classical Voice, which he co-founded in 1999 with Robert and Mary Commanday — has made essential contributions to the SF Symphony, SF Conservatory of Music, University of San Francisco, and countless other organizations around the world. Recently, through the League of American Orchestras, Getty gave 22 grants to American orchestras, rewarding their “response to community needs through educational, health and wellness, social service, and neighborhood residency programs.”