Barbra Streisand's 1994 Christie's Auction

On this page is a collection of articles, photos and catalogs from Barbra's 1994 auction of personal items at Christie's

Barbra Streisand, Superstar And No Slouch at Collecting

February 20, 1994

By Rita Reif

1994 Christies Streisand catalogBARBRA STREISAND'S collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco may topple records when it is auctioned next month. But investment was far from the superstar's mind when she was acquiring these objects over three decades.

Speaking recently by telephone from her earthquake-damaged home in Beverly Hills, Calif., Ms. Streisand recalled how her obsessive pursuit of campy Nouveau lamps and Deco vases moved into high gear in the late 1960's, just after her dazzling screen successes in "Funny Girl" and "Hello, Dolly!" A collector of vintage fashions and jewelry since her teens, Ms. Streisand was a pioneer enthusiast of both decorative-arts styles, beginning in 1964. The Brooklyn-born performer honed her eye by frequenting the shops of the best dealers and was known as a collector who bargained hard but paid high prices when she had to.

Ms. Streisand's turn-of-the-century and jazz-age holdings multiplied as she added scores of floral lamp fantasies by Louis Comfort Tiffany, frosted glass vases by Rene Lalique, chromed figures by Carl Hagenauer and curvy inlaid cabinets by Louis Majorelle. Now, Ms. Streisand has switched her focus to Americana and has sent most of her other objects to Christie's in New York; the 500 or so items -- furniture, lamps, paintings, posters, china, glass and collectibles -- will be auctioned on March 3 and 4 in a sale estimated to fetch as much as $4.5 million.

"When I bought the Art Deco stuff," Ms. Streisand said, "I had nowhere to put it. So I stored it all at Morgan's in Manhattan until my projection room in Beverly Hills was finished."

The Art Deco items shipped to her California house in 1972 filled 11 huge boxes, but that was only the first wave. Her pursuit of 20th-century French decorations and Tiffany glass continued into the late 1980's. Among the treasures she acquired were a leggy desk with ivory feet by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, a pair of scrolled iron gates by Edgar Brandt, a gilded bronze of the turn-of-the-century dancer Loie Fuller by Raoul Larche, a glass vase emblazoned with elephants by Emile Galle and a table clock in the shape of Cleopatra's coiffure by Albert Cheuret.

(Below: page from Christie's catalog)

Photos of Art Deco house in Christies catalog

As much as Ms. Streisand usually enjoys decorating her houses, including four of the five on her 24-acre ranch in Malibu, the remake of the fifth, a 1950's tract dwelling, into an Art Deco residence for guests was the exception: it took too long -- five years -- and represented, she said, "enormous aggravation." Even the garage had to be reconstructed to accommodate her Art Deco automobiles: a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce from 1926 and a 1933 burgundy Dodge convertible, a roadster worthy of Nancy Drew.

"By the time I finished," she said, "I was sick of Art Deco."

But back in 1970, as her buying escalated, the 1920's and 30's style was very much on Ms. Streisand's mind, and she purchased her largest Art Deco prize: a five-story townhouse in Manhattan. She needed more space than she had in her West Side apartment and admired the Leger-like front door of the townhouse. But, she said, she also hated the idea of living in a house in New York. So, she never took occupancy and sold the East Side property within the year -- at a loss.

"That's when I moved here to California," Ms. Streisand said, "but kept the small apartment in New York. Eventually, I also expanded that apartment when I bought the one next door."

Collectors never really stop collecting, Ms. Streisand said. But they often switch gears, simplify their holdings and start again. And that's one reason she decided late last year to empty the houses on her Malibu estate and sent to Christie's the stylish contents -- including "Adam and Eve," a painting by Tamara de Lempicka, a prominent Art Deco artist. Then she donated the land and buildings, valued at $15 million, to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The state agency will use the place for research in ecosystems as the Streisand Center for Conservancy Studies.

"I'll miss my gardens," she said, "and all those organic vegetables and scented cabbage roses."

Streisand and Tiffany cobweb lamp

Ms. Streisand added that she will also miss the sale's priciest object, one of the 22 Tiffany items up for bidding: a cobweb lamp, its leaded-glass shade patterned with spidery medallions, its mosaic base awash with white narcissuses. The performer found the piece in 1979 -- the year she was preparing to direct and star in the film adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Yentl" -- in the basement of a favorite Manhattan haunt, the shop of Lillian Nassau.

"I thought it was kind of ugly-great," Ms. Streisand said, adding that the price -- $70,000 -- "seemed huge" at the time but proved a bargain two weeks later when another lamp of this design brought double the price at auction.

Nancy McClelland, Christie's top specialist in 20th-century decorative arts, said, "Cobweb lamps have soared in value ever since." Ms. McClelland estimates that Ms. Streisand's lamp may bring $1 million.

TIFFANY'S COBWEB IS GONE, but the sinuous turn-of-the-century style lingers on -- sort of -- in Ms. Streisand's main home in Beverly Hills. "My whole Art Nouveau collection is now down to one bathroom," she said. "I have the most gorgeous Art Nouveau dressing table, chair, mirror and lamps -- all by Hector Guimard. These days, there are fewer things I want to own."

Even so, the rooms are far from bare. When Majorelle's corner cabinets, inlaid with waterlilies and mistletoe, were removed from the dining room, they were replaced by plainer, oak items in the Arts and Crafts style. The most important piece now is an angular Gustav Stickley sideboard, for which Ms. Streisand paid $363,000 in 1988 at Christie's, the record for Arts and Crafts.

"It was Stickley's sideboard," she said. "It came out of his house in Syracuse."

The Americana takes different forms elsewhere in Ms. Streisand's residences. These days she collects the formal 18th-century Queen Anne and Chippendale of the Founding Fathers for her Manhattan apartment and early 20th-century modern by Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Angeles.

Most of Ms. Streisand's American folk art -- painted furniture, decoys, toys and dolls -- along with an Ammi Phillips portrait filled her favorite house on the Malibu property, the one with exposed wood walls that she called the barn. And she longs to replace it with something as homey.

"I really want to be on one or two acres and not so cut off as I was at the end of the canyon in Malibu," she said. "Now I have a piece of land overlooking the city where I would like to build someday. My ideal would be an East Coast porch house, with shutters and trellises and swings. I'm a freak in terms of detail. I'll fly to Salem just to check out the moldings on the ceilings."

Ms. Streisand considers her bedroom in Beverly Hills the most casual of all her interiors. "I've got lots of quilts, folk art and rocking chairs," she said. "The color scheme -- basically white with blues and green -- is built around an Edward Hopper painting of two houses in a New England landscape."

Further expansion of her Americana will have to await the end of her next project: directing a film version of Larry Kramer's play "The Normal Heart." "It's a love story between two men set against the beginning of the AIDS epidemic," Ms. Streisand said. "It's about everybody's right to love."

By then, too, the mudslides and aftershocks from the recent earthquake will be a distant memory.

"My house here looked like a war zone from the earthquake," she said. "I lost three chimneys, a jack-in-the-pulpit Tiffany vase and a beautiful Stickley clock. But all I could think of that morning when it happened was, 'Where's the puppy?' -- the bichon frise I had bought the day before at the Northridge Mall. I went downstairs with my flashlight searching and found him in a corner behind a mess of objects in the kitchen. He was quite calm and calmed me. The fact that he was alive mattered -- not the objects."


Barbra's forward in the Christies catalog

Part two of Barbra's forward for Christie's catalog.

Barbra Streisand's Auction at Christie's

February 16, 1994

A Chance to See Barbra's Other Hits : Auction: A free exhibition of some of her Art Nouveau and Art Deco collection, set for a March 3-4 sale at Christie's New York, opens today at the St. James Club in Hollywood.

By Suzanne Muchnic

Barbra Streisand's fame is such that everything she touches seems desirable. Had she become a collector of corset stays or toothpick holders, she probably would have started a market trend. The fact that she developed a passion for decorative and fine arts in Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles--for which prices already run to six and seven figures--ensures that an upcoming New York auction of her collection and a Los Angeles preview of the sale will be hot events.

The two-day auction of more than 400 objects--valued at a total of about $4 million--will be held on March 3-4 at Christie's New York. The best of Streisand's 20th-Century decorative and fine arts will be offered on March 3 at the auction house's Park Avenue establish ment. Lower-priced decorative arts and memorabilia will go on the block the next day at Christie's East, an Upper East Side outpost where collectibles are sold.

Southern Californians can sample the auction's highlights in a free exhibition of 40 prime objects today through Friday at the St. James Club in Hollywood. Streisand will host a $250-per-ticket benefit reception for the UCLA Breast Center tonight at the club.

The multifaceted star is known as an obsessive collector who has designed entire rooms around single objects and decorated her homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu with the same attention to detail as she devotes to film productions.

Streisand was unavailable for interviews on the upcoming auction, but a Christie's newsletter quotes her as saying she wants to simplify her life and notes that she has donated her $15-million Malibu estate (which was furnished in Art Deco style) to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.


"I don't want to spend so much time being preoccupied with objects, and I don't want so many anymore," Streisand says in the publication. "That's all. I just want less." I don't want to have things in storage anymore. I don't want to have them in boxes in the basement. I want other people to enjoy them if I don't have room for them anymore. It's a good feeling to use these things for a while and pass them on during your lifetime."

Among the priciest attractions in the preview of furniture, decorative objects, paintings and sculptures are two Art Nouveau lamps by Louis Comfort Tiffany. A leaded glass "Cobweb" lamp with a mosaic base of white cobwebs and cherry blossoms is expected to bring the auction's highest price, $800,000 to $1 million. Streisand purchased the lamp in 1979 for $55,000, but a less elaborate version set an auction record for a Tiffany lamp in 1992, when it was sold for $770,000.

A red Tiffany "Peony" lamp ($250,000 to $350,000), which has been the centerpiece of an Art Nouveau-style living room in Streisand's Beverly Hills home, also will be exhibited, along with an elephant-motif vase ($80,000 to $100,000) and a "Dragon Fly" table ($25,000 to $35,000), both designed by Emile Galle.

Examples of Streisand's taste for Art Deco will include "Adam and Eve," Tamara de Lempicka's 1932 stylized painting of a nude couple ($600,000 to $800,000), Jacques Lipchitz's "Woman and Gazelles" sculpture ($150,000 to $200,000), a Cartier clock in the form of a Shinto temple gate ($100,000 to $150,000) and Lalique glass works.

Two of Streisand's classic cars--a 1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Springfield ($50,000 to $60,000) and a 1933 customized Dodge Roadster ($15,000 to $20,000)--also are for sale, but they will be represented by large photographs at the preview.

Funny girl with serious tastes: Barbra Streisand's passion for art nouveau and deco began when she was only 16. Her impressive collection is on sale this week.

By Geraldine Norman

Sunday, 27 February 1994

The film star Barbra Streisand is selling a huge chunk of her art collection at Christie's in New York this week. The public knows a lot about her singing and her acting, a good deal about her lovers and her marriage to Elliot Gould, and something of her political idealism and devotion to liberal causes - she sang at President Clinton's inaugural concert - but, until now, they have known little about her devotion to art.

The Christie's auction on Thursday and Friday will reveal that she began by haunting junk shops and buying old clothes, then graduated to art nouveau and deco. These two styles were upgraded from second-hand junk to desirable antiques in the Sixties — at just the time when Barbra started collecting. As she grew richer, her hobby turned into an obsession; she bought things because she had to have them, not necessarily because she had a place to put them.

Now she is moving on again, developing a new passion for sophisticated 18th- and early 19th-century American furniture — which echoes British styles but has an elegance all of its own. She has also begun collecting American arts and crafts from the turn of the century and American folk art. As the new furnishings move in, the art nouveau and deco have had to move out.

Streisand says she started collecting at 16 when she left school and lived in tiny New York apartments while attempting to break into the singing and acting scene. She decorated them from thrift shops on Second and Ninth Avenues with 'hand-crafted, beautiful beaded bags that I hung on the walls, along with empty antique picture frames, satin shoes and gorgeous buckles from the Twenties'. She wore her second-hand clothes in her early performances; an 1890s lace jacket she wore in her first show led her mother to berate her for 'singing in her underwear'. 'To me, my antique clothing looked like masterpieces,' Streisand says.

In 1964 she discovered Lilian Nassau, one of the first and most influential dealers in art nouveau. 'I was 21 years old. I went into her shop on 57th Street and my eyes just bulged out.' With the first money she earned from Funny Girl, her first Broadway show, she bought a sinuous and elaborately inlaid German art nouveau desk. It cost her $ 2,800 and, as she had nowhere to put it, she asked Nassau to store it for her. It is estimated to sell at between $12,000 and $18,000 on Thursday.

It wasn't until the late 1970s that she began to collect Tiffany glass in a big way — one of the star features of the auction. This time she started at the top by purchasing one of the rarest of all Tiffany lamps for $55,000; it is expected to sell for between $800,000 and $1m ( pounds 550,000- pounds 680,000) at Christie's this time round. Streisand describes the 'Cobweb' lamp as 'kind of ugly-great': 'I thought it was fascinating but it was $55,000. Whoever spent dollars $55,000 on a lamp?' There was another coming up for sale at Christie's three weeks after she found her 'Cobweb' in Nassau's basement and, to her delight, it sold for $150,000. 'Just a year later, Christie's sold another 'Cobweb' lamp for nearly $400,000 and I was even more thrilled.'

Christie's sale of 'The Barbra Streisand Collection' is a cross between a connoisseur's dispersal and a house clearance sale. Streisand says she wants to simplify her life and, with a typical dramatic flourish, describes the sale as 'a cleansing of the heart and the mind and the soul'.

In fact, she had reached a situation where she was over-housed. In addition to her principal residence in Beverly Hills, she had an apartment in New York and, until last year, a 20-acre estate by the beach in Malibu with no fewer than five houses on it. She had bought the Malibu estate in the Seventies in partnership with her then boyfriend, John Peters, a film producer. When they split up she bought his share; she used four of the houses herself (occasionally) and put a caretaker in the fifth.

Last year she donated the whole Malibu estate to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for use as a conservation institute; it was valued at $15m, though the donation didn't cost her that much since it was tax deductible. Christie's has most of the furnishings in the sale. Most significant are the contents of the house Streisand completely remodelled and turned into an art deco showpiece. It took her five years: 'I was in between movies and I needed to exercise my creativity,' she explains.

A whole collection of Lalique glass comes from this house, including a set of nine panels of bacchantes that Lalique made for the Cote d'Azur Pullman express (estimate $20,000-$25,000/ £13,600- £17,000). There is also a painting of Adam and Eve by Tamara de Lempicka, the portraitist who was the darling of the art deco period (estimate $600,000-$800,000/ £ 400,000- £545,000), a bronze of Femme et Gazelles made by Jacques Lipschitz in 1912 ($150,000-$200,000/ £102,000- £136,000) and even two period cars: a 1933 Dodge ($15,000-$20,000/ £10,200- £13,600) and a 1926 Rolls-Royce ($50,000-$65,000/ £34,000- £44,200).

The best of the decorative arts in the sale, however, belong to the art nouveau period and were recently turned out of Streisand's home in Beverly Hills. She is redecorating with simple geometric American arts and crafts furnishings - she spent $363,000 on a Gustav Stickley sideboard in 1988, the highest auction price on record for American arts and crafts furniture.

Christie's is offering a wealth of sinuous furnishings by Louis Majorelle and Emile Galle, the two great art nouveau designers from Nancy. There is also wonderful Galle glass and pate de verre by a range of turn-of- the-century glassmakers - glass that is modelled like clay and then fired. And finally, 19 spectacular lots of Tiffany metalware and leaded glass, including the 'Cobweb' lamp and a 'Peony' lamp estimated at $300,000-$400,000 ( £204,000- £272,000).

Christie's have divided the sale into two sections. Part one contains all the connoisseur's items and takes place in their elegant Park Avenue auction room on Thursday afternoon. The following day another 356 lots will be offered at Christie's East, their downmarket saleroom, tucked away on the east side of town — roughly equivalent to Christie's South Kensington in London.

The latter contains secondary objects and reproduction pieces. A lot of them come from Streisand's New York apartment, which she cleaned out a couple of years ago to make room for her new collection of 18th-century furnishings. It is at this sale that prices will primarily reflect the Streisand magic.

Bidders are offered the chance to acquire the first antique Streisand purchased, a Victorian walnut davenport (estimate $1,000-$ 1,500/ £ 680- £ 1,020), her Yamaha white lacquered upright piano (estimate $ 2,000-$ 3,000/ £ 1,360- £ 2,040) and a small group of her designer clothes: a Zandra Rhodes silk jacket and matching skirt (estimate $800-$1,000/ £ 545- £ 680), a collection of beaded gowns, one by Arnold Scaasi (estimate $2,000-$ 3,000), and 'assorted lounging robes' (estimate $ 200-$ 400/ £ 135- £ 270).

Streisand has retained the passion for clothes that began in the New York thrift shops of her youth. While her art deco house in Malibu was designed as a guest house, the cupboards in each room contained colour co-ordinated period clothes — which she loves too much to sell. She also hoards all her old costumes. It is almost surprising that she has brought herself to part with these few modern outfits.

Record Price In a Sale of Art Owned By Streisand

By Rita Reif

Barbra Streisand's collection of Art Deco and Art Nouveau was auctioned by Christie's yesterday for $5.8 million, well above the $4 million the auction house estimated the sale would bring. More than a third of the total, $2 million, came from a single painting, Tamara de Lempicka's "Adam and Eve" from 1932, a record for a painting by that Art Deco artist and well above Christie's top estimate of $800,000. The purchase was made anonymously, and Christie's would not identify the buyer.

"We screamed when the Lempicka price went over $1 million," Ms. Streisand said by telephone from her Beverly Hills, Calif., home after the sale. "I was working out with my exercise teacher and when the bidding went over the top I screamed. I paid only $135,000 for it 10 years ago." The previous high for Lempicka was $1.32 million paid at Sotheby's in New York in 1989.

If It Was Offered, It Was Sold

Buoyed by presale publicity, the bidding on the 176 items from Ms. Streisand's collection was heavy throughout. All the items sold, most of them for more than the presale estimates.

"An awful lot of the success of the sale had to do with the fact that this was Barbra Streisand's collection," said Christopher Burge, the chairman of Christie's in America, who was the auctioneer. "People wanted something from her collection, meaning the smaller lots brought higher prices than we normally see. The celebrity value means less on the more important pieces."

The major disappointment of the day was a Louis Comfort Tiffany cobweb lamp, which brought $717,500, below Christie's estimate of $800,000 to $1 million.

"I made more than 10 times what I paid for it," said Ms. Streisand of the lamp. "My motto is 'Be a bull, be a bear but don't be a pig.' "

Not the Usual Crowd

The large audience of about 1,000 collectors and dealers, filling two galleries, seemed less like a gathering of collectors of Tiffany lamps and Galle vases than of Impressionist and contemporary art. In other words, they watched more than they bid. One reason was that because of heavy advance bidding and the bidding by telephone, only about a third of the items were actually bought by those in attendance.

Mr. Burge attributed this to the "Streisand factor," saying the "audience was priced out of the market."

Christie's advance promotion for the sale began with the announcing of it in a cover article published in December in Architectural Digest, which lavishly displayed items to be auctioned from the entertainer's guest house in Malibu. By Jan. 31, the day Christie's opened its exhibition of Streisand items in Tokyo, the staff in New York had distributed 1,400 tickets for yesterday's sale. The tour also included stops in Paris and Los Angeles.

Others on the High-Seller List

Other items that brought significant prices yesterday included a jade Cartier clock, which was sold for $316,000 to an anonymous buyer, and a Emile Galle vase decorated with elephants, which was sold for $145,500.

A Jacques Lipchitz Art Deco bronze of a pair of gazelles and a woman, however, brought $90,500, well below the house estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. The buyer refused to give his name, but when asked whether he thought the price was a bargain, said, "Everybody here today thinks they got a bargain."

Ms. Streisand said of the bronze: "I thought it was overestimated. I only paid $12,000 for it and would have been happy with $60,000."

The auction is to continue today at 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. at Christie's East, 219 East 67th Street, Manhattan, with the sale of an additional 177 lots of lesser decorations and collectibles.


Related: Barbra's 1994 Concert Page