Case Studies: Estates & Discovery

Arman,  Conscious Vandalism Series , 1975, Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

Arman, Conscious Vandalism Series, 1975, Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

a case study

#1: As art experts for the Public Administrator of New York two senior appraisers from OTE were going through piles of mixed objects removed from the apartments and homes of city residents who had died without a will. There were jumbles of furniture, framed artworks, collectibles, libraries and miscellaneous material.

We noticed spread across several work tables, a huge mass of what appeared to be old Kodak film boxes that had come from the filing cabinets of a man who had been crushed under them amid the debris crowding his apartment in an artist’s enclave in lower Manhattan. Looking through the meticulously maintained photographs (an anomaly considering the rest of the apartment), we realized we had stumbled upon the work of a real artist. Instead of being thrown into auction in lots of 50 and dispersed forever, as would have been its fate, we persuaded the Public Administrator to set up an auction for the photographs to be sold as one gigantic lot. The director of a major French museum and those of American museums and film societies arrived to review the collection of photographs by Harry Shunk and Janos Kender who had been the great documentarians of the Paris/New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century.  Their photographs are now considered invaluable in recording the history of major artists of the second half of the 20th century.

The Lichtenstein Foundation, thanks to Dorothy Lichtenstein and Jack Cowart, acquired the massive collection at auction with its $2 million bid.  Its staff began the arduous task of collating the collection and has set up a system to allocate segments of the photographic treasure to many museums worldwide.  A triumphant conclusion to what had almost become a treasure lost forever.

Jean-Michel Basquiat,    Flash in Naples , 1983 © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, All Rights Reserved. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Flash in Naples, 1983 © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, All Rights Reserved. 


#2:   Well-known as the appraisers of the estates of multiple famous American artists, OTE over a relatively short period of time has valued the extensive artworks in the estates of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Arman, Louise Nevelson, Dennis Oppenheim, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, George Grosz (Peter Grosz), Richard Lippold, Marshall Fredericks, Jean-Michel Basquiat (Gerard & Matilda), C.C. Wang , EvaHesse (Early works), Clement Meadmore, and many, many others.


#3:  OTE began its involvement in the Huguette Clark matter long before the story of the heiress who lived in a hospital for 30 years hit the media. Our representatives surveyed the three apartments on East 72nd Street on the initial inspection and prior to working with Christie’s Auction House during the appraisal process. The sales of the valuable art, extraordinary jewelry, musical instruments and memorabilia will continue through 2014 and well beyond.

#4:  Another memorable assignment was in reproducing the cost of a half dozen monumental sculptures and installation artworks created for a private corporation in Asia and which required the Government of Singapore’s approval. This challenge was successfully met, as have been numerous others over the more than 80 years OTE has been the leading innovative appraisal firm in the nation.

#5:  OTE has been successful in taking on monumentally sized valuations that include the posthumous multi-million Photographic Collection of the Port Authority, partially destroyed in the World Trade Center Towers ; the tragic collection of memorabilia rescued from the destroyedTowers as well as the items donated by bereaved familyof victims, and the more than 100,000; items in the Andy Warhol Estate.

The key to tackling these massive jobs on time and with success is trained teamwork and a dedicated crew. OTE has it all.