Over the course of their 72-year marriage, Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei and his wife Eileen amassed a substantial collection of modern and contemporary art. The collection, which was kept privately in their home up until Pei’s death this past May, will be going up for auction at Christie’s this Fall with a total value expected to exceed $25 million. The collection of 59 works will be on sale from November 12 to December 4. A global tour of exhibition previews will begin in Paris this month before traveling to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and ending in New York in November.
The auction will feature a diverse range of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper falling under Christie’s categories for Chinese painting, impressionism, modern, and postwar art. Their collection illustrates not only a significant moment in 20th-century abstraction but also the couple’s deep relationships and dialogue with influential artists of the time. Many of the works were commissions or personal gifts from the artists themselves.
“My parents’ collection is a reflection of how they lived. They shared a deep curiosity about the world,” said Pei’s daughter Liane in a press release, “no matter the country, they always seemed to have friends, many of whom were artists, architects, gallerists and museum directors, ready to welcome them.”
One of the collection’s highlights includes two paintings by the couple’s close friend Barnett Newman. Untitled 4, 1950 and Untitled 5, 1950 were given to the couple by Newman’s widow, Annalee, in 1970, shortly after the artist’s death. The paintings were just two of a series of six—others can be found in the collections of MoMa and the Art Institute of Chicago. Additional notable works that filled the interior of the Pei’s Manhattan residence include paintings by Jean Dubuffet and Franz Kline as well as objects by Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore.