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Max Palevsky at Christie's

Alexander Calder
The Blackboard Stablile
Est: $2,500,000-3,500,000

Christie's is about to offer the magnificent collection of computing pioneer Max Palevsky so you better start saving. The Max Palevsky collection was until recently privately showcased in three architecturally important private residences, all owned by Max Pelevsky, director emeritus of Intel. The three houses Max Palevsky owned including their content encapsulate the twentieth-century architectural history of Southern California.

The collection includes blue chip works by Fernand Léger, Auguste Rodin, Richard Lindner, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Donal Judd, Frank Stella and many others.

Alexander Calder "The Blackboard" Stabile
Painted Steel
Executed in 1970

Christie’s is proud to announce the sale of the Collection of Max Palevsky, a superb group of over 250 works ranging from Antiquities to those by the most significant artists from the Impressionist and Modern and Post-War and Contemporary periods. The collection will be offered throughout multiple auctions starting in October 2010 at Christie’s New York and is expected to realize from $53 million to $78 million.

Born in Chicago, Palevsky (1924-2010) was an innovator and forerunner in computers and systems technology. His work continues to influence computing technology today. After serving in World War II, he traveled to New York and became fascinated with an exhibition on modern architecture at the Museum of Modern Art. It was then that he began to envision what a modern utopia could be. Palevsky was trained in mathematics and engineering and had a love for the literature of Balzac and Proust. In 1951 Palevsky leapt from a job as a philosophy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles to pursue computers technology, a fledgling field.

“We saw a class of problems that should be solved by computers, but for which no computers were being built.” — Max Palevsky, 1967

He worked early on at firms including Bendix Corporation and Packard Bell Computer Corporation. In the early 1960s he was a proponent of small and medium-size business computers — a market he intuited was neglected by IBM and other leading firms at the time — and co-founded Scientific Data Systems, which he eventually sold to Xerox in 1969 for close to $1 billion. He helped found Intel Corp. and then exited the corporate world for other endeavors such as film production, then politics supporting Democrats George McGovern, Robert F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Gray Davis. He also invested in a passion of his, Rolling Stone magazine. Palevsky began collecting art later in life, which enriched his homes in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Palm Springs, Calif.

“Max Palevsky’s keen intellect, passion for mathematics, computer systems and philosophy is acutely reflected in the works he collected,” said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s America. “From Fernand Léger, whose obsession with the machine age echoed Palevsky’s own, to Richard Lindner’s robotic women and Alexander Calder’s riveted steel sculptures, there is a sense of order and symmetry to the collection. Palevsky’s art collection offers insight to his genius.”

The Collection of Max Palevsky comprises Antiquities, Impressionist and Modern Art, Post-War and Contemporary Art, 20th Century Decorative Arts and Design, Prints and Multiples, Japanese Art, Latin American Art, American Sculpture and Modern British Art.

Highlights from The Collection of Max Palevsky within Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale to be held on November 3, 2010 in New York, include five works by the French artist Fernand Léger (1881-1955). Most notable is Léger’s La Tasse de Thé 1921, pictured right (estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000), a depiction of a voluptuous curvilinear woman against a geometric background of contrasting forms in primary colors. It belongs to Léger’s pivotal series of the early 1920s, which culminated in his seminal masterpiece Le Grand Déjeuner, on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is the top lot in the Palevsky collection. Femme sur fond rouge, femme assise, painted in the 1920s (estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000) shows Léger in his most daring and reductive style, placing a woman in tones of steely gray and black against a flat crimson background.

Max Palevsky’s love of Balzac inspired him to collect a series of Auguste Rodin bronzes related to the sculptor's commission for a monument to the author. Balzac étude finale (estimate: $500,000-700,000), depicting the imperious Balzac in costume, is the highlight of the group. Other exciting versions of the Balzac subject will be offered in the following Day Sale on November 4.

Also a part of the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale is Giorgio Morandi’s poetic Natura Morta, pictured right (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000), a still life of a carafe and two canisters in muted tones and an Egon Schiele work from 1911, named Liegender Akt mit schwarzen Strumpfen (estimate: $1,000,000- 1,500,000), depicting a nude woman lounging.

For the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening sale to be held on November 10, 2010, at Christie’s Rockefeller Center flagship, the highlights from The Collection of Max Palevsky include: Tableau Noire, a painted steel stabile sculpture completed by Alexander Calder in 1970 (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000), four works by Donald Judd including Untitled, 1980, a signature Judd stack comprised of 10 units of stainless steel and red anodized aluminum (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000) and Roy Lichtenstein’s Girl in Mirror, 1964, pictured right (estimate: $3,000,000-4,000,000) depicting a flaxen-haired woman smiling at her reflection in a hand mirror in porcelain enamel on steel.

Frank Stella’s Telluride, 1960-1961 (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000) is a rare and important example from his copper painting series, the majority are in museums and institutions. The T-shaped painting with striations in copper oil paint is a testament to Palevsky’s fondness for symmetry. Four lots by Richard Lindner are also slated to be sold in the Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale. Most notable is West 48th Street, 1964, pictured right (estimate: $600,000- 800,000) which shows a woman with breasts exposed wearing a fantastically-harsh metal corset juxtaposed with a ladylike handbag and opera-length gloves.

The standouts in the Antiquities auction on December 10, 2010 include: A Roman Marble Athena, circa 1st-2nd Century A.D. (estimate: $200,000-300,000), A Roman Marble Head of Aphrodite, circa 1st-2nd Century A.D. (estimate: $150,000- 250,000) and A Roman Marble Herm of a Draped Female, circa 1st-2nd century A.D. (estimate: $250,000-350,000).

Palevsky’s collection of Decorative Arts was international, but also focused on the richness of American decorative art in the early 20th century. Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Arts & Design department will offer several pieces from The Collection of Max Palevsky on December 15th, 2010, including a group of leaded glass windows by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Morris & Co. and Louis Sullivan; works by Tiffany Studios and an enameled silver vase by Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co. (estimate: $70,000-90,000).

On October 26, 2010, Christie’s will offer several works from The Collection of Max Palevsky in the Prints and Multiples Sale in New York. The key features in that sale are Pablo Picasso, Bust de Femme au Chapeau, 1962 (estimate: $220,000-280,000) as well as several works by Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Lindner.

Highlights from The Collection of Max Palevsky will go on tour, starting with Christie’s Paris from September 14-21, followed by Christie’s Hong Kong from October 2-6, then to Christie’s London from October 9-14 and finally in Christie’s New York from October 21-27.

Credit: Christie's, Sophia Chabbott, Kate Carr