Sotheby's is expecting thousands at auction of Garbo's possessions

November 13, 1990|By Los Angeles Daily News

A New York auction house is gearing up for throngs of Greta Garbo fans curious about the reclusive actress who wanted so fervently to be alone.

Officials at Sotheby's said they were expecting thousands of people to visit a preview exhibition of this week's sale of art and furnishings once owned by the Swedish-born actress, who died in April at 84.

"There's an awful lot of excitement," said Sotheby's president Diana Brooks. "People feel like they're getting a glimpse of this woman."

The collection, valued at more than $20 million, is scheduled to be sold in three separate auctions this week at the venerable auction house.

The holdings include paintings by major impressionist and modern masters, rare books and works of decorative art, including French and Italian antiques from the 18th century.

The items, which were collected for more than 50 years by the beautiful and mysterious actress, graced the elegantly furnished New York apartment where Garbo retreated after retiring at 36.

The estimated value of the goods ranges from between $7 million and $9 million for "Gabrielle and Coco Lisant," a 1909 painting by 19th-century French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, to between $100 and $150 for two undated lithographs whose artist is not listed in a catalog for the collection.

Highlights from the collection were exhibited earlier this fall in showrooms used by Sotheby's in Paris and Tokyo, but the New York preview, which opened Friday and runs through today, showcases the collection in its entirety.

"Up until now, the whole collection hasn't been viewed together," Brooks said.

Sotheby's is expecting capacity crowds for the auctions, which will feature significant works of art today, lesser works of art and rare books on Wednesday, and pieces of furnishings and decorative arts on Thursday.

To accommodate fans of the actress, whose credits include "Anna Karenina," "Camille" and "Ninotchka," the auction house has taken the unusual step of issuing tickets to the Thursday afternoon auction, which is expected to be the most popular.

By early last week, all 1,200 tickets available for the event had been requested.

"On a normal, single-owner furniture collection, you might have 500 people in the room," Brooks said.

The attention can't be traced to the size of Garbo's holdings.

With approximately 200 pieces, the collection is considered of moderate size. Neither is Garbo's prowess as a collector particularly noteworthy.

"She had a strong sense of color and beauty," Brooks said, "but I wouldn't call her a serious collector. She bought things that she liked and surrounded herself with objects that she felt a connection with."

There is no doubt that the Garbo mystique is the main draw, Brooks said.

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