GOING ONCE: Greta Garbo fans unable to make the nearly $6 million offer for her East 52nd Street apartment may find soon-to-be-auctioned art from her collection more within reach.
Three canvases that once belonged to the reclusive film star will be part of Christie’s May 15 Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art. Robert Delauney’s “La femme à l’ombrelle ou La Parisienne” was “the central focal point of her living room in New York, and all of the furniture that she chose to surround the canvas played into its incredible colors,” according to her great-nephew Derek Reisfield. That work is expected to fetch between $4 million and $7 million.
Two signed canvasses that also will go under the gavel are works from Jan Alexej von Jawlensky’s “Das blasse Mädchen mit Grauen Zopfen” and Chaim Soutine’s “Femme à la poupée.” Christie’s executives estimate that the von Jawlensky is expected to be north of $1.5 million and the Soutine should be upward of $3.5 million. Noting that all three pieces “offer a particularly modern representation of women, especially for their time,” her nephew said, “This was a concept that really resonated with her. Another factor that drove her collecting tastes was color….In essence, when we talk about Garbo we call her the first ‘modern woman,’ and I think that these three works speak to both her fundamental strength and striking aesthetic.”
Throughout her life, the fiercely private film star preferred not to sign autographs, to sit for interviews or to even attend the Academy Awards. The Swede’s under-the-radar style extended to her interest in art. “She absolutely loved” the Delaunay painting of a woman carrying a parasol “one of the reasons was because she used umbrellas to shield herself from the press,” a Christie’s spokeswoman said Tuesday.
After making her last film in 1941 — “Two-Faced Woman” with George Cukor, Garbo retreated from Hollywood at the age of 35, pivoting toward a life anchored more in fine art, philanthropy and near-and-dear friends. Her inner circle included Barnes Foundation’s founder Albert Barnes and the Museum of Modern Art’s first director Alfred Barr. Over the years Garbo assembled a boldly colored paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative art collection from a range of artists. Like the rest of her life, her art was largely hidden from public view, preferring that it be considered over conversation in her wood-paneled living room.
Should Garbo’s art, like the actress’ former Midtown apartment that her family just put on the market be out of reach for “Camille” or “Grand Hotel” devotees, there are two more attainable options. “Shoot First,” the documentary about photographer Harry Benson, features a frame-by-frame explanation of how he captured her swimming in Antigua. And an Adrian-designed gown Garbo wore in 1931 is on view at the James A. Michener Art Museum’s “Charles Sheeler: Fashion Photography and Sculptural Form” exhibition.