Art Titan, Mall Mogul, Alfred Taubman Dies at 91

DETROIT -- A. Alfred Taubman, the self-made billionaire/developer of the modern shopping centre, who was jailed for commission fixing and collusion with Christie's, when he was Chairman of Sotheby's Auctioneers, has died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, age 91.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network have followed the triumphs, exploits, and missteps of Taubman, a formidable presence in the art world.

Taubman was a college dropout who built a fortune building shopping malls across America. He bought the ailing, privately held Sotheby’s Auctioneers in 1983 for $124 million dollars, taking the company public on the NY stock exchange.

Over the next five years, Taubman transformed Sotheby's, putting his protégé Diana D. Brooks in the job of CEO.

By 1989, Sotheby’s overtook arch-rival Christie’s with year end results of $2.9 billion to Christie’s $2.1 billion.

All came to an end when the global art market suddenly dropped in 1990 and both Christie's and Sotheby's colluded in a price-fixing scheme, involving the commissions charged to buyers and vendors.

They also agreed to stop poaching exclusive lists of special clients from one another. Taubman was jailed for a year and a day, age 77. He was also fined $7.7 million.

Brooks, his CEO-protégée, escaped jail by testifying against her boss, who was charged for coming up with the scheme, along with fellow chairman Sir Anthony Tennant of Christie’s, also indicted but as he was in London steered clear of the American justice system.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s were fined over $250m in a class action and were forced to pay back millions in commissions to buyers and sellers.

Art Collection

What will become of Taubman's collection, outlined below, in the wake of his death?

While no specific information about the will has been released, if his philanthropic lifestyle is any indication, we may be more likely to see these works enter the permanent collection at a museum than the auction block at Sotheby's.

1. Georgia O'Keeffe
In the book Georgia O'Keeffe: Circling Abstraction, Taubman is credited with owning the 1922 work Pink and Green. While no images of the canvas are available, Spring was painted in the same year and employs a similar color palette. Last year, O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for a record-breaking $44 million, putting the market for her work at an all-time high.

2. Paul Klee
Paul Klee's picturesque 1928 oil painting Small Landscape with Garden Door (1928) is one of DIA's most prized acquisitions from Taubman's collection. He donated the painting in 1987, three years after he joined the museum's board.

3. Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Another one of DIA's treasures, Taubman donated Duchamp-Villion's landmark Cubist sculpture Le Cheval Majeur (The Large Horse) (1914) in 2007. It currently resides in the Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden.

4. Giovanni Agostino da Lodi
A departure from the early-20th-century works that dominated his collection, Taubman was the owner of the red crayon drawing Woman gazing into a mirror (Allegory of Prudence) (circa 1500) by Italian painter Giovanni Agostino da Lodi. While no images of the work are available, A lutenist, seated on a bench, seen in profile employs the same medium.

5. Lyonel Feininger
Taubman loaned Lyonel Feininger's canvas Study, on the Cliffs (Early Attempt at Cubist Form) (1912) to the Whitney Museum for a retrospective in 2011 (see artnet Magazine Weekend Update). Feininger's Expressionist canvases occasionally hint at his past as a caricature and comic strip artist, though this 1912 painting is more interested in an exploration of Cubism.

6. Andy Warhol
Owning a Warhol is a status symbol for collectors and Silver Marlon (1963), a silkscreen depicting Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, is no exception. Four Marlons (1966), a similar work featuring four images of Brando recently hammered for $69,605,000 at Christie's New York.

7. Franz Kline
Taubman owned Franz Kline's 1958 black-and-white painting Elizabeth, which the artist painted for his wife, Elizabeth V. Parsons, a British ballet dancer.

8. Amedeo Modigliani
Taubman loaned the 1919 portrait Paulette Jourdain (1919) by Modigliani to the Jewish Museum for its 2004 exhibition "Modigliani: Beyond the Myth". Johnny Depp and Helly Nahmad were among other lenders for the show.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video provides an autobiographical summary of Taubman's life.