This Pablo Picasso painting is one of the works to be sold from Zadig & Voltaire's collection at Christie's.

Daunting as “Death in America: Selections From the Zadig & Voltaire collection” sounds, these pieces that will be sold at Christie’s upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art sales in New York serve a greater good.

The founder of the French label Thierry Gillier is putting more than 40 works under the gavel with a portion of the proceeds earmarked to help fight the escalating ecological crisis. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Oceana’s United States Shark Conservation Program will benefit from Gillier’s decision to sell some of the collection. Eleven works will be sold on May 17 at the evening sale and 35 lots will be on the block at the May 18 afternoon sale. Combined they are expected to drum up more than $20 million.

Maurizio Cattelan’s “Untitled,” 2007, is expected to sell for upward of $1 million, Donald Judd’s “Untitled” copper and red Plexiglass is set to start at $1.2 million and Pablo Picasso’s “Buste de Femme” oil on canvas has an opening estimate of $4 million. Urs Fischer’s “Sodium” painting is also in the mix starting at $700,000. The Zadig & Voltaire collection is named for Steven Parrino’s “Death in America #1,” 2003, which is estimated to run between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Parrino once said of that time, “The word on painting was ‘Painting Is Dead.’ I saw this as an interesting place for painting…and this death painting thing led to a sex and death painting thing…that became an existence thing.”

Loic Gouzer, chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s noted that the collection covers nearly 40 years but “its defiant nature feels more relevant now than ever.” He said, “Gillier’s understanding of history and his sharp eye for quality is distinct in these works. The collection comprises a powerful sense of rebellion, from the artists who are known for defying traditional notions of fine art, to the collector who has built an empire pushing the boundaries of high fashion. Every work contains an underlying mentality that art cannot be defined, medium cannot be restricted and ideas cannot be constrained.”

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