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The Greta Garbo Collection by Sotheby's

An Exhibition of Garbo's Estate was held from November 9 to November 13. It was called The Greta Garbo Collection. The Exhibition of her estate was highly touted in the print and broadcast media. The preview of the collection drew more than 7000 people.

Sales results

This Auction, a three-day-sale, was held Thursday, November 15-18, 1990 at 2 pm. It amassed over $19 million. Most of the paintings sold for well over their preauction estimates.

Source: Barry Paris – Garbo (1994) and The Greta Garbo Collection (Auction catalogue, 1990) by Sotheby’s.


Gray Reisfield's Preface: The Greta Garbo Collection
Color! Color always was the essential component. Other criteria did matter. Quality, condition, proportion, history, practicality – all were important. But colors – shades of rose, salmon, pink and a mossy green – were paramount. In her home there was a riot of color everywhere.

The works meshed and flowed in a wonderous explosion of enveloping hues that lifted the mood. Nothing was black or white.

The Auction catalogue, 1990

During the almost four decades when the New York apartment was her only home, she tried to create a harmonious setting where nothing jarred the senses. Always, continually, she sought out those with particular expertise in art, furniture and decorations. Many became her lifelong friends.

She chose those objects which pleased her with slight regard for the current fashion. She was imaginative in combining them: the expensive and the more modest. A. Renoir and a David Levine, the modern and the old.

Pics from The Auction catalogue, 1990

An Atlan and a Lemaire, the conservative and the daring – a Thierriat and a Jawlensky. Nothing was static. There was a plan, a logic, but within it, refinements and changes would occur. Sometimes a new color or a new artist would capture her, creating havoc until a new order would emerge. This is a very personal collection.

It reflects totally one person's taste, vision, preference.

One day, some years ago, we were sitting in her living room and she told me: "I love color. I want the room to sing. How can one not understand? With me it's inborn. I just know. I didn't have to learn it.  This room is my creation and I think it's pretty good. You must learn to trust yourself."

Gray Reisfield , New York, August 1990


Garbo’s Jawlenskys

Jawlesnky (March 13, 1864 – March 15, 1941) was a Russian expressionist painter active in Germany. Garbo had several of his paintings. Angelica Jawlensky talked about on Garbo’s collection in 1990. She said that ss one looks at die Jawlenskys in the Garbo Collection. It is clear that her passion as for works painted between 1915 and 1918. Drawn from the three major subs of paintings executed during these years.

Garbo paintings reflect the evolution of the artist's interests and style during a critical period in his life. Together, the Garbo paintings repersent a pivotal moment in Jawlensky's life, a period when, after an inner crisis, he began to create something new, full of energy, hope and harmony.

Gray Horan on Garbo’s collection (1990)
There was a hint of humor in much of what she did. She grouped the lineal –, highly-colored Jawlensky portraits on the wall, across from the two softer Renoirs. She would ask you what you supposed they said to one another.

Cécile de Rothschild (1990)
…her taste reflected her personality, and her eye was instinctive and sure. She alone chose the paintings front those offered to her, always independent in her opinions and never hesitant in her judgment. Adventurous and far-sighted, she was not influenced by fashion, acquiring the Jawlenskys well before his work was widely sought after, for example. She taught me a great deal about how to look at art.


Paintings & Furnitures


Other Pieces from the Sotheby Sale

The greatest event surprise was that Greta's tchotchkes brought such extraordinary prices. An ordinary canvas hardly worth more than $600 went for nearly $19,000. A pair of porcelain candlesticks with an appraisal between $800 and $1,200 sold for an incredible $3 1,000. A pair of Chinese figurines valued in the $1,000 to $1,500 range fetched over $25,000.

Garbo's Auctions - Introduction  


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