Besides being the president of CBS, William Paley was also known as an art collector, favoring works by the great nineteenth- and twentieth-century masters. His collection is currently owned by his namesake foundation, but much of it is on long-term loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The collection contains many works by European impressionists and Fauvists like Cézanne, Matisse, and Derain, while also featuring later, more abstract works by Giacometti, Motherwell, and Albers. Recently, Sotheby’s won the consignment to sell part of the Paley collection across several New York and London sales. Eighty works from Paley’s collection are displayed at MoMA, and soon we’ll see twenty-nine of them cross the block at Sotheby’s. The first works from the Paley collection will be featured in the October 14th Contemporary Evening sale in London, including Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes. The other works will be sold later at a November 14th New York sale, including Picasso’s Guitar on a Table.
William Paley did not found the Columbia Broadcasting System, but he built it from a small radio network to one of the top broadcasting services in the United States. He was president and majority shareholder of the company starting in 1928. By 1937, Paley was already building up his art collection and became a member of MoMA’s board. He also later served as the president of the museum and chairman of the painting and sculpture committee when the museum underwent a period of expansion in the 1980s. The collection was first exhibited to the public in 1992 shortly after Paley’s death, and later toured the United States for several years before returning to MoMA. Paley’s son Bill, now head of the William S. Paley Foundation, stated that the sales’ proceeds will go directly to the foundation’s philanthropic work and to MoMA for expanding its digital services. Specialists estimate that the pieces just from Paley’s collection will bring in a minimum of $70 million for Sotheby’s.