Eileen and I. M. Pei.
Photo: Courtesy Eileen and I.M. Pei Family Archive

Architect I. M. Pei’s Personal Art Collection Heads to Auction

Among the top lots are works by Isamu Noguchi, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Jean Dubuffet
Jacques Lipchitz, Man with Guitar, 1925. (Estimate: $700,000–$1 million.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019

When Pritzker Prize–winning architect I. M. Pei passed away in May at the age of 102, he left behind not just a legacy of some of the world’s most impressive modernist buildings but also a stellar collection of postwar and contemporary art. Now the trove that he and his wife, Eileen, amassed during their 72-year marriage is heading to auction, courtesy of Christie’s.

Featuring 59 lots, the collection will hit the block in a series of sales taking place in November and December in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. Previews will be held in Paris (September 13–17), Hong Kong (October 3–6), Los Angeles (October 15–17), and New York (November 1–13). The series of auctions is expected to fetch over $25 million in total.

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Among the top lots are works by Pei family friends, including artists Barnett Newman, Jean Dubuffet, and Zao Wou-Ki. There’s also a striking black-and-white painting by Frank Kline estimated to sell between $3 million and $5 million; a Jacques Lipchitz stone sculpture estimated between $700,000 and $1 million; and Henry Moore’s plaster Reclining Figure, estimated between $150,000 and $200,000.

Jean DuBuffet, La Brouette (The Wheelbarrow), 1964. (Estimate: $388,000–$610,000.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019

In a statement, the Peis’ daughter, Liane, said: “My parents’ collection is a personal reflection of how they lived. They shared a deep curiosity about the world, and I have wonderful memories of traveling with them. No matter the country, they always seemed to have friends, many of whom were artists, architects, gallerists, and museum directors ready to welcome them. There was always a deep feeling of mutual respect, warmth, and friendship. Whenever we were in Paris, we would visit Zao Wou-Ki, whom I always referred to as ‘Uncle Wou-ki,’ to see his latest paintings. Years later, I recall a splendid trip to Venice with Annalee Newman, whom I adored as a grandmother. She and Barnett Newman, along with friends such as Tony Caro, Isamu Noguchi, and Pierre and Tana Matisse, were often invited to our home.”

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1983. (Estimate: $150,000–$200,000.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019
Franz Kline, Untitled, 1955. (Estimate: $3 million–$5 million.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019
Zao Wou-Ki, 27.3.70. (Estimate: $4.8 million–$6.1 million.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019
Barnett Newman, Untitled 4, 1950. (Estimate: in the region of $8 million.) Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2019

For details about the collection of Eileen and I.M. Pei, head to Christie’s. 

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