In Tribute Of The Late Doris & Thomas Ammann, Take A Look Inside The Art Collection Auctioning For Over $300 Million At Christies 

Article written by Shemaiah Gold 

“The Marilyn silkscreen has been estimated to fetch $200 million, which would make it the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever to sell at auction.” 

Christie’s will offer more than 100 masterworks – with an estimated value of $300 million – from the collection of the late Swiss siblings, gallerists Thomas and Doris Ammann across two sales in May in New York. Leading the auction with the most expensive piece at an estimated value of $200 million is Andy Warhol’s iconic Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, the one of a kind pop-art special. The Iconic Marilyn by Warhol features at the single-owner sale on the evening of May 9th including 36 works following on with the 66-lot day sale on May 10th offering a range of work from early 1960s Pop to Minimalism to the best of the 1980s, works by Cy Twombly, Elaine Sturtevant, and Francesco Clemente.

Additional artworks from the collection will be offered at a dedicated day sale during the week, Christie’s mentions. The auctions are expected to be the highest-valued philanthropic sale from a single owner since the Rockefeller Collection, which had a total of $835.1 million at Christie’s in 2018. Additional highlights from the collection include Warhol’s 1964 Flowers and Robert Ryman’s Untitled, circa 1961, each carrying a presale estimate of between $15 million and $20 million.

Collectively, the artwork is demonstrative of the impactful nature of the gallerist-artist relationship and the important role it has had in the historical narrative of the global art market. The Ammanns were leaders in the art world and market makers for a generation of talented artists—many of whom have gone on to become household names.

Among the highlights is a rare version of Warhol’s Flowers made in the largest square format of the artist’s original 1964 series. It is one of just nine Flowers works of this crop and scale. Two are in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and one belongs to the Hirschhorn in Washington D.C. 

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987) Flowers, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 81 3/4 x 81 1/2 in. Painted in 1964. Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000 

Among the other 20th-century artists in the selection of 36 works are Brice Marden, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Bidlo and Elaine Sturtevant. The siblings Doris and Thomas Ammann, who founded Thomas Ammann Fine Art in 1977, collected not for investment purposes but out of passion. “These are not only wonderful paintings but are also historically important paintings that have never been offered for sale,” Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman for 20th- and 21st-century art, said in an interview. “This was their personal collection.” The Marilyn silkscreen has been estimated to fetch $200 million, which would make it the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever to sell at auction. 

So… Who Are Doris And Thomas Ammann? 

Doris became one of the most talented art dealers in the world, but it was not a role she chose for herself. In 1977 she cofounded Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, the Zurich gallery that bore the name of her charismatic brother, and where she happily played the supporting role. When Thomas tragically died, in 1993, she was able to move from handling responsibility behind the scenes to managing and becoming the face taking centre stage. Thrust into a world of extraordinarily competitive dealers, she became a beloved and respected friend among them.

Known for her ‘elegance, knowledge, friendliness and discretion 21 March, the eminent Swiss art dealer Doris Ammann passed away, aged 76. She was head of Zurich’s Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG gallery, which shows major artists including Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol. She was a constant presence at auctions around the world, making Seat 7 in the front row of Christie’s main New York saleroom in Rockefeller Plaza her own.

‘We’re talking about the loss of one of the most respected dealers of her generation,’ says Georg Frei, her partner at Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG. ‘She was a mix of elegance, knowledge, friendliness and discretion — and her loyal core of international clients appreciated that.’ Working with private collectors and museums, the gallery dealt in top-tier works made mostly between 1870 and 1960, from the Impressionists to early Warhol. One of many important acquisitions it brokered was Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Joseph Roulin by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1989.

They spent over three decades working together in one of the most enviable partnerships in the art business—the two were inseparable, cutting expertly tailored figures around the globe and finding themselves inevitably on every guest list. Thomas and Doris Ammann were also devoted friends of the artists they collected, championing them for the entirety of their careers. According to Christie’s, part of what made the Ammanns so special was that they maintained boundaries between their collecting and dealing. “You can’t collect what you want to sell,” Thomas Ammann said in a statement provided by Christie’s. “Because then either you sell all the good things, which is no fun; or you keep all the good things, which bankrupts you.” 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964. Acrylic and silkscreen on ink on linen. 40 x 40 in (101.6 x 101.6 cm). 

The ‘Modern Mona Lisa’ 

Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe is one of modern art’s most familiar icons. As an emblem of the American Pop Art movement, Marilyn represented the optimism and individuality and of the post-war Renaissance, fame, and celebrity. Through Andy Warhol, Marilyn is both the epitome of the American Dream and a universally recognised image burned into the collective conscience — ‘the modern Mona Lisa’. 

Here are some more highlights from the collection… 

Cy Twombly, Venere Sopra Gaeta (1988) 
ELAINE STURTEVANT (1926-2014) Lichtenstein But It’s Hopeless, oil and acrylic on canvas, 44 1/8 x 44 3/8 in. Executed in 1969-1970. Estimate:$600,000-800,000 
Untitled oil-on-linen work by Ryman from around 1961, estimated at $15 million to $20 million