Tuesday, June 18, 2019
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Sotheby's pulls the walls: 8,400 square meters of free art in downtown New York | Culture

One of the first decisions Tad Smith had to make when he took over Sotheby's four years ago was what to do with the headquarters of the auction house in New York. The building was too small, despite being a real mass. His team was considering the move for a long time. And when it seemed that everything was on track, he asked them to repeat the exercise but vice versa, to transform it.

"In the end we chose to stay," he says, "and this is the result." Based on throwing walls and ceilings, a sample space of 8,400 square meters was released on the first four floors of the building at 1334 York Avenue. It consists of 40 galleries open to the public with free admission and nine private reserved for sales. All have different dimensions, from 380 square meters that occupies the largest to 30 small.

As Japanese architect Shohei Shigematsu explains, "flexibility through diversity" is achieved. "We give the building more freedom," he adds, "so that it ceases to be a great elephant." The huge columns that were hidden behind the walls are now visible to be part of the history that is shown and get a more efficient use of space.

Spaces dedicated to modern art
Spaces dedicated to modern art

The expansion of the galleries coincides with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Sotheby's. The area dedicated to exhibitions is larger than that of the Whitney and Guggenheim museums. Upon entering you can see in the background a huge gallery where the monumental masterpiece is exhibited La Jeunesse de Bacchus, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It will be auctioned for the first time this month with an estimated value of 30 million dollars.

It is only the beginning of the walk through 1,400 works that includes the fascinating Meules, by Claude Monet. It exceeds 55 million. It is the third time that it can be seen in public. The last one was in 1986. "It is in perfect conditions," says August Uribe, head of the department of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, "it is revolutionary and continues to inspire many artists."

He shares a floor plan with eight paintings by Pablo Picasso, which cover his prolific career as an artist. One of them is Femme au chein. The portrait of his second wife, Jacqueline Roche, is estimated at 30 million. For a similar value will go on sale Mousquetaire a pipe. Both belong to the last period of his work that began in 1960, in which he achieved full development. "They are very powerful," says Julian Dawes.

Interior of one of the main galleries
Interior of one of the main galleries

Not to mention a masterpiece no title Mark Rothko created in 1960 that in the auction can be sold in about 45 million. Or the emotional and powerful cry of Francis Bacon in Study for a Head. Also in one of its three large galleries you can see the monumental picture of Robert Motherwell titled Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 134, about the horrors of the Civil War.

Allan Schwatzman, president of the division of plastic arts of Sotheby's, insists that the idea with this reorganization is to create a dialogue between the works with the visitor similar to that which exists in a museum, with a dynamic space. "We are managing to put the works in conversation," concludes David Galperin, head of contemporary art, "to better encapsulate the cultural moment."

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