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Anne Marion art collection, estimated at $150M, up for auction

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An art collection worth an estimated $150 million that belonged to the late Texas oil and ranching heiress Anne Marion (1938-2020) is going up for auction this spring in New York.

Sotheby’s said that Mrs. Marion’s private collection includes works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Franz Kline. Highlights from Collection of An American Visionary is being exhibited in Fort Worth through Sunday, March 21.

Marion, who founded the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, died last year at the age of 81. Marion and her husband, John Marion, a former Sotheby’s chairman and auctioneer, established the museum in 1997.

Sotheby’s said three masterworks at the heart of the collection are expected to each sell for over $20 million. They are: Warhol’s “Elvis 2 Times,” Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park No. 40,” and Clyfford Still’s “PH-125 (1948-No. 1).”

Marion, the great-granddaughter of Capt. Samuel Burk Burnett (1849-1922), was the heiress to the historic Four Sixes Ranch in King County in West Texas.

On his death, Samuel took the unusual step of willing the bulk of his estate to his 22-year-old granddaughter, “Big Anne”, to be held in trust for her unborn child (the future “Little Anne” Marion), thereby launching the tradition of female leadership of one of Texas’ greatest family businesses.

Following her mother’s death in 1980, “Little Anne” took over management of the business and would run it for the next 40 years. The ranch was celebrated for its Black Angus cattle and winning quarter horses, and thanks to oil strikes there the family’s wealth grew. President Theodore Roosevelt, famous Western actors, and many other illustrious figures were regular visitors to Four Sixes. Yet, like her great-grandfather – who, in spite of having built himself “the finest ranch house in Texas”, always chose to sleep in the backroom of the supply house – Anne remained firmly rooted in the realities of her family ranch and their businesses.

Marion was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame (1996), the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame (2005) and the Great Hall of Westerners (2009). She was honored as a Great Woman of Texas by the Fort Worth Business Press in 2003. Following her death, she was honored with an extended cattle drive in Fort Worth, attended by cowboys from all the region’s leading ranches.

Over the course of her life, Anne Marion donated many works to museums, and oversaw, through her charitable foundation, the distribution of more than $600 million worth of grants to a variety of institutions and causes, many of them in Fort Worth and in Texas. She was a board director and benefactor of the Kimbell Art Museum for four decades, and a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She was a principal benefactor of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the driving force behind its $65 million expansion, selecting Tadao Ando as architect for its new home, which opened in 2002.

Sotheby’s said that a number of other works from her collection will be gifted to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Further details will be announced later.

Sotheby’s said the masterworks that formed Marion’s art collection were featured in her Fort Worth home, which was designed by architect I.M. Pei. Commissioned by her mother (Anne Burnett Tandy), the home was the first of only three private houses ever designed by Pei, the architect of the Louvre Pyramid; the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar; and many other major public buildings.

Hugh Hildesley, who joined Sotheby’s in 1961 and played an integral role in the company’s formative years in the U.S., was a longtime colleague of Sotheby’s eminent Chairman and auctioneer John L. Marion, Anne’s husband for the last 32 years of her life. In fact, it was Hugh – the only ordained fine art auctioneer in the world – who presided over their marriage. He remembers: “The sheer scope of Anne’s astounding achievements will prove influential and transformative for generations to come, including her role as President of the Burnett Foundation; founding the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum; donor of the Marion Emergency Care Center in Fort Worth; and tireless Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Anne knew quality when she saw it, and that was never truer than when she first met John. For more than three decades they together forged a legendary partnership, which was to the art world’s supreme advantage. That legend represents one of the great treasures in my 60 years of Sotheby’s history.”

Property from the collection of Anne Marion, spanning a variety of categories, will be offered in a series of sales throughout Spring 2021 and beyond at Sotheby’s New York:

  • American Visionary: The Collection of Mrs. John L Marion
  • Contemporary Art Day Sale
  • Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale
  • American Paintings Sale
  • Old Master Paintings Sale
  • 19th Century European Art Sale
  • Style Sale
  • American Visionary: Fine Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion

In addition to the Fort Worth showing, Highlights from Collection of An American Visionary will be exhibited in Los Angeles (March 25–28), Taipei (April 3–4), (Hong Kong (April 16–21), London (April 14–19) and East Hampton (later this spring) before returning to Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries for a pre-sale exhibition.

This article includes information from Associated Press and Sotheby’s.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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