Art Market

The Glenstone museum was revealed as the buyer of a record-breaking Lee Krasner painting.

Nate Freeman
May 21, 2019 4:33PM, via ARTnews

Lee Krasner, The Eye is the First Circle, 1960. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The buyer who snapped up one of the most thrilling record-breaking works from last week’s New York auctions has been revealed.

Lee Krasner’s The Eye is the First Circle (1960) was bought by Emily and Mitchell Rales, the art collecting couple who last year opened an expansive new building for Glenstone, their private museum in a suburb of Washington, D.C. They paid $11.7 million at Sotheby’s evening sale on Thursday, doubling the previous record for Krasner, set when Shattered Light (1954) sold at Christie’s New York in November of 2017 for $5.5 million.

“We weren’t sure we’d get it,” Mitchell Rales told Wall Street Journal art market reporter Kelly Crow, while backstage at her newspaper’s Future of Everything conference. “We’re so happy.”

Announcing the purchase publically hopefully means the work will be put on view at Glenstone, which sits on a large and lush property in Potomac, Maryland, about a half hour outside of D.C. It will contribute greatly to the number of monumental Krasner paintings currently owned by institutions in the nation’s capital. The National Gallery of Art has Cobalt Night (1962), a large-scale work donated by Reader’s Digest magnate Lila Acheson Wallace in 1984, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts has Krasner’s The Springs (1964), which was donated by that institution’s co-founders, Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay.

The person in the Sotheby’s salesroom who won the Krasner on behalf of the Rales was their longtime art dealer Robert Mnuchin, who was also bidding on behalf of a client the night before at Christie’s, when he secured Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986) for a record-breaking $91 million. Glenstone said it was not the purchaser of Rabbit in an email to Artsy on Wednesday.

Further Reading: KAWS Continues Market Rise at Phillips and $50-Million Rothko Sells at Sotheby’s

Further Reading: The Emotionally Charged Paintings Lee Krasner Created after Pollock’s Death

Further Reading: Inside the $200 Million Expansion of America’s New Must-See Museum

Nate Freeman