Collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin Are Sending More Than 1,000 Artworks to Sotheby’s—the Largest Contemporary-Art Collection Ever Auctioned

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When Sherry and Joel Mallin, two of the world’s top collectors of contemporary art, announced earlier this year they would be selling their New York estate—and the art collection inside it—the art world collectively gasped.

“We’re basically selling everything,” Joel Mallin, 89, said in a recent interview. “It eliminates, to some extent, worrying: ‘Should we sell this one or that one?’”

The collection includes more than 1,000 large- and small-scale works by the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Robert Gober, Anselm Kiefer, Peter Doig, Robert Irwin, William Kentridge, George Condo, Yayoi Kusama, and many others. 

Inside the Mallins’ “Art Barn.” Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence.Sotheby’s announced it will be auctioning the couple’s art collection over several sales beginning in London this month, extending into 2024. 

Initially, the couple dreamed about selling the house and the collection as a package, but have instead changed course and will be offering the art through a series of sales at Sotheby’s in London and New York, estimated to reach $50 million.

Highlights from one event, which takes place October 14 at Sotheby’s London, include Thomas Schütte’s Bronzefrau Nr.11 (Bronze Woman No. 11), a large-scale sculpture with a pre-sale estate of between £2 million and £3 million ($2.3 million to $3.4 million); Louise Bourgeois’s Listening One (1981), a six-foot-tall multi-totem sculpture belonging to the artist’s first mature body of work, “The Personages,” with a pre-sale estimate of between £1.3 million to £1.8 million ($1.5 million to $2 million). 

Next month, at Sotheby’s New York, a Robert Irwin work from 1965–67, which carries an estimate of $3 million to $4 million, is among the highlights.

The Mallin Family Home. Courtesy Houlihan Lawrence.

The couple’s decision to sell the entirety of the house’s collection, in addition to the property’s 70 outdoor sculptures, ultimately came down to wanting it to be seen, they said. While the couple has donated many artworks to museums over the years, they didn’t like the idea of doing so with the bulk of their collection, which was likely to “go into a basement and no one will see the artists’ work,” Sherry recently told Bloomberg.

The couple added that they also considered turning their collection and home into a foundation, but opted against it due to the endowment costs associated with caring for it long-term. “”[Y]ou have to endow it extremely heavily for the town to even consider it—but in our case, most of our wealth is in our art,” Sherry said. “In order to endow it, we’d have to sell the art, and then we’d have nothing to endow anymore. So that didn’t seem like a good idea.”

The Mallins first met when they were just 14 years old, and then went on to live separate lives. They eventually reconnected in the 1980s over their mutual love of art.

As a couple, the pair went on to become big supporters of an emerging group of artists in London during the early 1990s, now popularly known as the Young British Artists, or YBAs. 

Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence.

Now, as the Mallins part ways with their 15-acre art-filled home, Sotheby’s estimates it will be the largest private collection of contemporary art—with more than 1,000 works—ever to come to auction. 

“The Mallin Collection is one forged by passion, and never by compromise,” said Lucius Elliott, a specialist of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, in a statement. “The collection is an encyclopedic glance at art history over the last 50 years, it is a great honor to be entrusted with the opportunity to bring it to market, and share the Mallins’ remarkable accomplishment with the wider public.”

Discovering the property at Buckhorn Park, located in Pound Ridge, they found a unique opportunity to exhibit some of the large-scale sculptures they had acquired over the years. The property itself, which boasts its own private lake, an apple orchard, a main house with four beds and five baths, a party house, two separate guest cottages, an in-ground pool, and a purpose built “Art Barn,” are being sold separately for an asking price of $6.5 million. (One artwork, an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, comes with the property.)

The Mallins warning gate. Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence.

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