A Big Blue

Like many companies, IBM boasts a corporate art collection bought over the years to enhance the work environment for employees and visitors. It will soon enhance Big Blue's bottom line, instead. BUSINESS WEEK has learned that CEO Lou Gerstner has decided to raise cash from that vast art cache. A significant number of IBM's 4,800-plus art works, valued at $45 million, will go on the auction block at Sotheby's, beginning later this year.

IBM started collecting in the 1930s, under founder Thomas Watson Sr., when it bought about 300 works by such American masters as Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. And over the past 30 years, the computer giant purchased contemporary paintings by such artists as Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler. Since both collections were bought years ago, the sale should yield much green for Big Blue.

Snagging the auction is a real coup for Sotheby's, which beat out archrival Christie's in part because it offered to inventory and manage the huge art trove. It's turning into an azure period for Sotheby's, which is about to bag another blue-blood deal: selling furniture, clothing,

and memorabilia from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.