For almost 50 years ann and Gordon Gettys The Pacific Heights mansion is considered one of Northern California’s most celebrated interiors for its stunning historic design and exquisite art and antiques.
Now 1,500 lots representing the treasures of her collection will be offered for sale in a series of auctions beginning in October, with proceeds benefiting the newly formed Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, Christie’s announced on Tuesday 3 May . The auction house estimates this amount as it could realize $180 million that could be distributed to Bay Area arts and science organizations including the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the University of San Francisco, the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, the Berkeley Geochronology Center and the Leakey Foundation.
“This profound investment in our work is a call to action, as arts and education are vital to our existence and critical to our collective pursuit of a brighter future,” said David Stull, President of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Gordon Getty’s Alma Mater.
Among the lots in the first sale are artworks by Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt and Jacques-emily Blanche and furniture by the famous 18th century craftsmen William and John Linnell.
“We have a long history of working with families and selling almost all of the major collections that come out of San Francisco,” Ellanor Notides, chairman of Christie’s West Coast, which opened the San Francisco office in 1982, told The Chronicle. “But that’s a personal best for me.”
Designed by the late Ann Getty, the home’s first-floor public spaces are noted for their mix of prestigious 18th- and 19th-century paintings and sculpture, European and Asian antiques, and the use of rich textiles, a hallmark of Ann Getty & Associates was an interior design firm. Over the decades the house has hosted politicians, movie stars and royalty and has been featured in design books and magazine spreads. Chronicle columnist Herb Caen is famous as the setting for lavish parties for both charitable organizations and high society gatherings, and has dubbed the house the “Embassy of San Francisco”.
Gordon Getty, 88, a classical music composer, investor, and philanthropist, is the fourth child of J. Paul Getty, founder of the Getty Oil Co. The elder Getty was a prolific art collector himself and eventually founded the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
After his father’s death in 1976, Gordon Getty sold the company to Texaco in 1984 for $10.1 billion. In 2020, Forbes Magazine estimated Getty’s net worth at $2.1 billion and ranked him among the 400 richest Americans. Ann Getty, née Gilbert, died of a heart attack in September 2020 at the age of 79. The two married on Christmas Day 1964 and had four sons (Gordon also has three daughters with Cynthia Beck).
In 1987, the couple established the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, which has also donated extensively to arts and education in the Bay Area. The Gettys’ newly formed philanthropic foundation intends to pay out all proceeds from the auction sales within the next three to five years. Bob Leberman, manager of the Getty Family Office, said talks about donating art and objects to museums in California and the Bay Area are also underway.
In 1973, Ann and Gordon Getty moved into the Willis Polk-designed Pacific Heights mansion that would become the home of their collection for the next five decades. In addition to allowing the home to be used for special charitable events, the couple were known for hosting a combined holiday and birthday celebration for Gordon each December, often extending to a gated street with a large tent.
In November 2021, the home was also the site of a wedding reception for her granddaughter Ivy Getty (daughter of John Gilbert Getty) following her marriage to photographer Tobias Engel at San Francisco City Hall.
Jonathan Rendell, vice chairman and senior adviser of Christie’s Americas, said that the Getty house “perhaps reflects a grand London townhouse of the 1905’s. It’s the talkative (art) groups, it’s the use of colour, it’s the use of historical textiles. … It’s the way the colors in the paintings and the colors in the textiles are very subtly matched, making the whole thing a work of art.”
Gordon Getty told The Chronicle that the auction is “truly a tribute to Ann’s unparalleled taste and style and the family home she created for us in San Francisco.”
“It was our shared vision to sell this collection and dedicate the proceeds to California arts and cultural institutions that she and I both have long supported,” he added.
Matthew Shilvock, general manager of the San Francisco Opera, called the planned gifts “amazingly transformative” for organizations in San Francisco.
“This gift will usher in a new chapter of excellence and innovation on our stage and in our community, allowing us to be more to more people,” Shilvock said, adding that the company plans to do so as the Opera revolves in September As their centennial season approaches, they announce “details of how this gift will propel us into our second century with bold creativity.”
Among the lots for the first sale is Matisse’s 1902 painting Chrysanthèmes dans un vase de Chine, which hung in a stairwell. Rendell calls the work “absolutely characteristic of Mrs. Getty” for its use of multicultural elements such as a Chinese vase and Japanese chrysanthemums in the still life.
Cassatt’s 1878-79 pastel Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right, depicting a woman holding a flower fan to her breast, hung in Ann Getty’s bedroom.
“It’s everything you want in a Cassatt,” Rendell said. “It’s Cassatt at the right moment. It is Cassatt in relation to (Paul) Gauguin and other friends in the Impressionist circle. It is an artist collected by a collector; There are many touchpoints that make it an important asset.”
A pair of black lacquered and partially gilded George II chairs, originally created by cabinetmakers John and William Linnell in the mid-18th century for the ‘Chinese’ bedroom at Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, are among the furniture lots in the first auction . Rendell called the chairs “museum-worthy”; The bed and two other chairs from the badminton room are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
“They’re one of the most important furniture groups in the museum,” Rendell said.
More details, including October sale dates and additional lots, are yet to be announced. A global tour of some of the pieces for sale will begin in Hong Kong from May 21-26. Christie’s has yet to say if there will be viewings of the lots in San Francisco.
“It’s unusual to see works by famous names from the 18th and 19th centuries in private homes,” said Jeremy Stone, San Francisco-based art consultant and appraiser and founder of Business Matters in the Visual Arts. “The way they are hung and installed in the Getty house looks natural because the house has such a historic feel. It’s the whole setting with the incredibly important period wallpaper and bespoke period silk curtains, all equally captivating.”
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