Barbra Streisand's 1999 Christie's Auction
On this page is a collection of articles, photos and catalogs from Barbra's 1999 auction of important American Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau & works by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Christie's .
The auction took place Monday, 29 November 1999 and Thursday, 2 December 1999.
Streisand Collectibles Bring Nearly $4 Million at Christie's
This story was originally written by Mark Iskowitz for the Barbra Streisand Music Guide, December 28, 1999.
Christie's, the famed international auction house, re-teamed with Barbra Streisand for a two-day public auction of furniture and other items, November 29 and December 2, 1999. In addition, Christie's included several pieces from Barbra's jewelry collection in its September 29 auction of "Important Jewelry, Silver and Fine Wristwatches (Part I)." Christie's spokesperson Vredy Lytsman says of Barbra, "This woman has a real eye and great taste. She takes the same intense approach in collecting as she does when she directs a movie or records a record. She's a collector."
Christie's New York in Rockefeller Center auctioned The Barbra Streisand Collection: Important American Arts & Crafts, Architectural Designs, Art Nouveau and Works by Louis Comfort Tiffany on November 29 beginning at 10:00 a.m. with lots 1-139, 20th century Arts & Crafts and Architectural Designs. Next, at approximately 11:45 a.m., lots 200-333, pieces by Tiffany Studios, were auctioned. The marquee sale commenced at 3:00 p.m., lots 400-505, featuring American Arts & Crafts by Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, and lamps, pottery, metalwork, textiles, and furniture by artists including potter William Grueby and coppersmith Dirk van Erp. They had been housed in Barbra's former Holmby Hills home on Carolwood Drive. Public viewing of these highly prized items, estimated from $1,000-$500,000 occurred on November 26-28. The total sale collected $2,986,810, with the top lot being a 1902 Stickley sideboard ($540,000 hammer price). Another highlight receiving much attention was the return of a pair of Stickley oak corner cabinets to the nonprofit Craftsman Farms Foundation, which runs the Parsippany, NJ museum and National Historic Landmark (formerly Stickley's log house). "We are tickled to have the cabinets back," said Tommy McPherson, the Foundation's executive director, who bought one cabinet for $60,000 and the second for $65,000, after trying to reacquire the cabinets for 10 years. Read Barbra's own Truth Alert on this matter.
On December 2, Barbra's large collection of jewelry, clothing and furniture, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and other decorative objects, each lot estimated from $100-$20,000, named Memories...The Personal Property of Barbra Streisand, was auctioned at Christie's East in New York and fetched $984,095. At 10:00 a.m. lots 600-882, art and furnishings from Barbra's former Holmby Hills home's screening room, living room, dining room, sun room, white office, master bedroom, and other spaces were offered. At around 2:00 p.m. lots 883-1194, wardrobe & accessories, costume jewelry, fine jewelry, dressing room items, exercise room items, garden items, furnishings, rugs & carpets, and automobiles were be offered, with bidding lasting until 7:30. In fact those who stayed late (many departed earlier) found super bargains in the latter lots, many below listed estimates, such as a classy Art Deco mirror ($100) and gorgeous Art Deco side chair, black lacquer with rose cushioning, from the same set as those in Barbra's Deco House on her former Ramirez Canyon ranch ($150). Artists and companies represented include Hagenauer, Lalique, Erté, Bergé, Tiffany, Gallé, Karan, Ungaro, and Westwood. There was an abundance of personal clothing, and jewelry.
Bidding on miscellaneous items associated with several Streisand films, including Funny Girl, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Owl And The Pussycat, Up The Sandbox, A Star Is Born, and The Mirror Has Two Faces went through the roof. A promotional necklace featuring the classic "Funny Girl" logo fetched over $2000. The set of Clear Day sunglasses sold for $5500. Other interesting personalized items included several BJS-monogrammed pieces (pink bath towels & rack: $1150), letterhead notepad, and portraits of Barbra by various artists. Her 1987 white and silver Ford Econoline F350 Telstar Motorhome, with "BJS" on the door, used as a mobile office during The Prince Of Tides production, was withdrawn from auction. From her dressing room: a pair of Chintz banquettes, custom designed by Streisand, and the vanity with lighted mirror that she has used for over 30 years, which was made for her during the filming of Hello, Dolly!. Virtually her entire screening room was auctioned, including two film projectors ($5500), 1920s bar glassware and accessories, and Art Deco furniture and decorative objects. Below are additional items and purchase prices.
- 1956 black Ford Thunderbird, $32,200
- 1976 Mercedes-Benz, $27,600
- Art Deco chrome and black lacquered cabinet, $18,400
- 1980 Mercedes-Benz, $17,000
- Yamaha white baby grand piano, $10,925 (pre-auction est. $1000)
- Rosewood grand piano, $9,280
- Pink chiffon evening gown, just under $7,000
- Set of 12 casual hats, $2,600
- 6 Southwest style belts, $2,600
- Domed hair dryer, $2,000
- 55-piece tea set, $900
- 12-piece lot of ashtrays, lighters, playing cards, coasters, and spinning top, $500
- 5 plastic bracelets, $500
- cotton and wool braid rug, $437
- Overcoats by Dior and Ellis, $345
- Gray & white-striped corner sofa, $100
- Pair of upholstered chrome armchairs, $100
- Pair of modern Formica corner cabinets, $50
So who were the buyers at this auction? New York professionals/Barbra Streisand fans predominated on the floor and many unknown bidders, presumably from all over the country, kept telephone operators busy. John Potenzano, who took time off from his ad agency job, is quoted in various reports as spending about $1000 for dozens of items, mainly the 55-piece tea set (see above listing), candlesticks, and Limoges dessert plates. "Everybody's gonna get Christmas presents that belonged to Barbra Streisand," he said. "I'm a big Barbra Streisand fan. I have probably a thousand Barbra Streisand CDs. I probably wouldn't have bought a tea set if not for Barbra Streisand. It's about knowing that a legend owned it. Hopefully Frank Sinatra had tea with her or something."
James Stewart bought a flatware service for six for $420 and actually plans to use it for dining. "I'll wash them first, of course."
Melanie Seinfeld, 49, said regarding the above-listed bracelets, "I think it's strange. It's way beyond. I mean those plastic bracelets were probably sitting in a drawer somewhere. Even if [Barbra] wore them on her wrist, it's still not a reason to pay that kind of money. The longtime fan did manage to buy some reasonably priced outfits from Streisand's closet -- a Donna Karan dress, leather vest, and shirt for less than $300. "I'm nuts about her, and getting a piece of clothing is just incredible...a real deal," she boasted to the New York Post, displaying her backstage pass from Barbra's 1967 Central Park concert. "I know for a fact she wore these clothes."
Susan Levine bought the above-listed lot of ashtrays, etc. and called them "12 little pieces of Barbra."
Philip Medici of Brooklyn, purchased the $10,000 Yamaha piano for his daughter, saying she was just taking lessons and adding "I just hope she continues!"
Two catalogs, sold separately, may still be available for purchase (The Barbra Streisand Collection: $55; Memories: $35). Christie's provides complete lot-by-lot final sale prices on its website. Streisand previously sold large collections of fine art and furniture through Christie's in March 1994.
Christie's Magazine (November 1999) published "Barbra Streisand: The Passionate Collector," an interview with Barbra about the formation of her huge collections and decision to sell another large portion. She explains that her Arts & Crafts collecting began “after living with French Art Nouveau furniture for over 20 years. I became intrigued by American things--paintings, furniture, politics. I bought my first piece of Arts and Crafts in 1987, that's when I began to get tired of the frills and curlicues of the Art Nouveau furniture, lamps, and objects I had been collecting. I wanted to live with simpler lines.” When asked how aggressive or passionate a collector she is, Barbra says, “I used to be a crazy person! Obsessive, I would say. For instance, I bought a Tiffany large red turtleback tile lamp base and didn't rest until I found the green one and the yellow one.” Her serious collecting really began when she began buying antique jewelry as a teenager, she recalls. Today, things have changed. "When the psyche changes the visuals must change. A part of my personality has changed, and at this point I don't think about collecting as much. At least it's not an obsession any more, and there are other things to concentrate on...other values." Still, Barbra has several different ongoing collections -- antique dolls, antique jewelry, miniature furniture samples, American paintings, American Federal furniture, and American folk art. Is it ever too much? "When a house begins to look like a storeroom," she admits. "I still have things in storage, it's overwhelming. Recently, I bought to tiny Art Nouveau fireplaces in England -- even though I have no room for them, they were so charming, I couldn't resist them. I guess I still have a collector's mentality."
"Ms. Streisand's enormous fame will no doubt contribute to the excitement with which collectors all over the world will greet this sale. But more importantly, serious collectors will relish the unexpected opportunity to acquire great examples from her collection," says Nancy McClelland, international head of Christie's 20th Century Decorative Arts Department. "This is even more a connoisseur's collection than the one Christie's offered for sale five years ago," McClelland continues. "Each piece has been carefully researched and selected for its design and craftsmanship." Streisand's decision to sell this collection was predicated on the sale of her Beverly Hills home of 30 years standing. Her other homes are already fully furnished. McClelland adds, "She really needed to sell the collection. There was no way she could absorb it into any of the other houses." Read the article "Tug-of-War on Furniture Up For Sale by Streisand" in The New York Times (10/13/99). CBS's The Early Show report, "Streisand Sells Some Stuff" (11/15/99), provided an online article based on the live TV segment with McClelland and images of Dec. 2 auction lots she brought with her. The video of the segment was formerly available to view online.
The 9/29 auction at Christie's Los Angeles began at 6:00 pm and featured platinum, gold, and diamond necklaces, bracelets, wristwatches, and rings dating back to 1860, which were estimated to bring $1,000-$10,000 each. Barbra's 18 lots of jewelry were all estimated in the $1000-$4000 range. The pieces were previewed at Christie's L.A. showroom from September 15-19. People magazine's 9/20 issue pictures three particularly striking pieces: a 1940s ruby brooch, 19th-century turquoise and diamond bracelet, and leopard brooch (gifted to Barbra by producer Ray Stark). Lytsman admitted that Barbra's name would attract people to the preview, but she expected serious jewelry aficionados as well. "She's got some really great stuff. It is a celebrity sale, but on the other hand," Lytsman explained, "it is very different because we are not selling her castoffs if anything like that." Also included in the 9/29 auction was "Lot 400 - A Once In A Lifetime Evening: This evening includes two VIP tickets as guests of Ms. Barbra Streisand to her Las Vegas Millennium concert and hotel accomodations in a luxury suite at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino for New Year's Eve, December 31, 1999. Without reserve." High bid: $19,000. A total of approximately $250,000 was collected from Barbra's 18 lots on Sept. 29.
Museum gets Bab's Stickley
A museum devoted to the American designer Gustav Stickley, the leading proponent of the Arts and Crafts style, paid $125,000 at auction Monday for a pair of Stickley cabinets belonging to Barbra Streisand.
The oak corner cabinets were of particular interest to the nonprofit Craftsman Farms Foundation, which runs the Morris Plains, N.J., museum that once was Stickley's home, because they were made specifically for his dining room.
"We are tickled to have the cabinets back,'' said Tommy McPherson, executive director of the foundation, which has been trying to return the cabinets to the house for 10 years.
The foundation had made repeated appeals to Streisand, asking her either to donate the cabinets or arrange a private sale. Even its request for measurements, which the foundation hoped to use to reproduce the cabinets in lieu of the original ones, were ignored, McPherson said.
Streisand's publicist, Dick Guttman, repeatedly denied that the 57-year-old entertainer or her representatives had ever been contacted about the cabinets.
He said Streisand first heard of the museum's interest in the cabinets after they were already committed to be auctioned, at which time "the protocol is such, that no preference can be shown to any potential bidder."
McPherson declined to discuss the controversy Monday and would only say that he respected the actress for her charity work and that it was her right to sell the cabinets any way she wanted.
I think it’s a matter of fairly accessible record that charitable giving is an important part of my life, so I feel no call to defend how much or to which causes I give. But because I refused to capitulate to coercion, a very false issue was exploited in the press concerning my recent Christie’s auctions, so I finally feel obliged to comment and to set the matter straight. In this concocted debate about whether I was morally bound to donate two Gustav Stickley corner cabinets to the Craftsman Farms Foundation, the press largely disregarded the fact that all of the proceeds of the first of the three auctions went to charity. What a conveniently short memory some of the media have.
But there is a much more important issue that was ignored in this coverage the circumstances under which one should choose to make contributions. Had I ever been contacted by the Foundation in advance of the auction arrangements.. which I most definitely never was.. I quite certainly would have donated the pieces. But when the director of the Craftsman Farms finally conveyed his interest to us.. by having the New York Times call to inquire why we had not responded and acquiesced to the Farm’s request (a request which had never been communicated to us).. it was done in a coercive and adversarial manner, colored with the implication by the director of the Foundation that if I didn’t make the donation, they would take the story to the press (which, obviously, they had already done). It was impossible to capitulate to such rude and inappropriate tactics. As a matter of record, I had offered another lovely Arts and Crafts piece to the Metropolitan Museum, but they didn't have room for it.
This brings up another consideration. While I believe it is proper for any legitimate charity or cultural entity to request a donation (we receive hundreds each year and give each serious consideration), I think any supporter of charities has the right to determine the causes he or she most passionately wants to contribute to. And no potential recipient, however worthy, has the right to say “either you accede to our request or else we will go to the newspapers," which is how the Craftsman Farms' desire arrived on our doorstep. The fact remains that no one should dictate to anyone how their charitable instinct should be expressed.
Related: Barbra's 1994 Christie's Auction