Madoff’s Picasso, Lichtenstein Pieces Heading to Auction

Whatever else Bernard L. Madoff did with the proceeds from his $17 billion Ponzi scheme, he didn’t splash out on great art.

Toward the end of the year, Sotheby’s in Manhattan and Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, will auction 61 items formerly owned by Madoff with an insured value of more than $575,000, according to a recent filing by Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating the Madoff brokerage, with U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The lots include art, posters and rugs, as liquidators wind down a process that has already sold off Madoff’s yachts, sports cars, wines and jewels to benefit his victims.

“It’s a fairly lackluster group,” said Victor Wiener, New York-based art appraiser and former executive director of the Appraisers Association of America. “If you think about the amount of money this man had, he could have been buying fabulous paintings.”

The highlights include a 1947 Picasso lithograph depicting a black bull, a set of six 1973 bull lithographs by Roy Lichtenstein and a small 1952 Matisse crayon drawing of a woman’s head.

While there also are important postwar artists -- Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Brice Marden, Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly -- most are represented by works on paper that are part of large editions.

The items, including a couple of oriental rugs, once decorated Madoff’s offices in Manhattan and Queens.

Posters, Carpets

Sotheby’s agreed to sell most of the works, while the remainder, including the posters, carpets and decorative items will be auctioned by Stair, according to the filing. Sotheby’s declined to comment on the sale or offer a presale estimate. Stair didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Since 2009, the collection has been stored at Cirkers Fine Art Storage & Logistics in Manhattan, generating no income while incurring about $16,000 in annual fees.

Art consultant Helen D. Lally was retained by Picard to catalog the works, arrange storage and assess market conditions, according to court papers.

She notified Picard that “the art market, like the economy generally, has recently improved,” the filing said. “The consultant has therefore recommended that the artwork be offered for sale at auction this year at the fall sales, which occur in October and November.”

Bullish Art

Picasso’s “Le Taureau Noir,” was printed in an edition of 50 and sold for as much as $41,000 at auction. Roy Lichtenstein’s 1973 “Bull Profile Series” was made in an edition of 100; one is currently available for $225,000 at Susan Sheehan Gallery in Manhattan. David Hockney’s lithograph “Hotel Acatlan: First Day” has sold for as much as $121,000 at auction, in 1989, though in recent years it has been trading at about $40,000, according to the Artnet auction database.

Picard has gathered about $9.3 billion to compensate the jailed Madoff’s customers since his 2008 arrest.

During a weeklong sale in 2009, assets including three powerboats, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and diamond earrings belonging to Madoff’s wife, Ruth, tallied $3 million.

In 2010, Madoff’s canopy bed, Steinway & Sons grand piano, shoes and underwear brought in more than $2 million at a sprawling auction in New York that featured almost 500 lots.

In 2011, an Aston Martin owned by brother Peter Madoff sold for $247,500 and Bernard Madoff’s wine collection brought $41,530.

As in previous sales, Madoff’s name is likely to add a celebrity element to the offerings, Wiener said.

“People like getting things with interesting provenance,” he said. “And the fact that it’s sold by the liquidation trustee gives people an impression that they may be getting a bargain.”

Muse highlights include Ryan Sutton and Richard Vines on dining, Greg Evans on TV.