Sonnabend sale to pay for taxes New York

March 26, 2008

The collection of Ileana Sonnabend, which represents one of the world’s best-known collections of 20th-century work, may have to be sold off to pay taxes on her $400 million estate, report Bloomberg.

Sonnabend, a prolific New York dealer, died in October aged 92 having spent much of her life collecting postwar and contemporary works. Highlights include Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Jasper Johns’s American flag painting and Robert Rauschenberg’s “Canyon.” She was labaled “the Mom of Pop Art” and her first husband, art dealer Leo Castelli was influential in building the careers of Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol, Stella and Judd, to name just a few.

Before her death, Sonnabend named her adopted son Antonio Homem Sonnabend and her daughter Nina Sundell as the executors of the estate, which is reportedly worth between $300 million and $400 million in assets, according to documents filed in state court in New York on November 13, 2007. It is believed that Federal and New York state taxes on an estate of this size could be more than 50 percent.

Sonnabend instructed that works of art should be sold to pay off the administrative costs incurred by the estate as a result of her death, including tax. The news has left Sotheby’s and Christie’s International fighting it out for the consignment, with David Nolan a former employee of Sonnabend at her New York Gallery commenting, “The quality of the collection means that everybody who is anybody around the world would participate in the sale.”

How this situation will be resolved remains unclear at this point in time with discussions still underway. However, Ralph Lerner, the attorney of the estate commented, “Something will happen within the next 30 days. We have to pay estate taxes like everybody else.”

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