Sotheby's Unveils "The Wolf Family Collection: The Spirit of America", Assembled Over the Last Century

Friday, January 13, 2023
Sotheby's Unveils "The Wolf Family Collection: The Spirit of America", Assembled Over the Last Century

Assembled over the last century, the collection celebrates American artistry in all its forms, from the colonial period to 20th century modernism. Features works by William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, Louis Comfort Tiffany,Frank Lloyd Wright, Greene & Greene, and Van Cleef & Arpels among others.

Erving and Joyce (Joy) Wolf were pioneers in all aspects of life, and their remarkable journeys, beginning with their upbringings at a Wyoming Air Force Base and in Brooklyn, in many ways, epitomize the romantic ideals of the American Dream, from their whirlwind courtship of just over two weeks to building the Wolf Land Company and Inexco Oil Company from the ground up amidst the backdrop of the American West, and much more.

William Merritt Chase, In the Studio, Oil on canvas, 29 by 23 ½ in. (73.7 by 59.7 cm.), Executed in 1892

One of the guiding principles that defined their seven decades of marriage was the Wolfs’ shared passion and love of American art and objects. A mirror to their insatiable curiosity, wide-ranging interests, and decades-long friendships within the art community, the vast collection that filled the Wolf’s Fifth Avenue residence is unique in its superlative quality and unparalleled depth. Replete with more than 1,000 individual works that adorned its carefully curated spaces, the rooms of the home each spotlight a different a style and time period while creating a unique harmony that ties them all together and evokes the grandeur and authenticity of museum period rooms. The home exudes an effortless style that is a testament to Erving and Joy’s natural ability to live with and care for their collection, from paintings adorned with the most elegantly carved frames to works on paper preserved to their highest integrity to exquisite ceramics placed around the residence.

The Wolf Family Collection is comprised of a remarkable breadth of exceptional works of fine and decorative arts, with extraordinary examples of paintings and watercolors, sculpture, early American furniture, silver, Chinese export porcelain, design, and jewelry.  In its impressive totality the collection embodies the spirit of American artistry, design, and craftsmanship, spanning the 18th through 20th centuries. Each unique space in the Wolf home allows for conversations and natural connections between paintings and objects which provide an intimate window into American history, from the Colonial Era to the Arts & Crafts Movement to the avant-garde artists of the Stieglitz Circle in the early 20th century.

Fitting of their long-standing position within the American art community, the Wolfs went on to notably endow The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery in the American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – where Joyce was a founding member and both were part of the William Cullen Bryant Fellows – and later made contributions to the Denver Art Museum and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C, defining their legacy as stalwart friends of American art in the truest sense.

Estimated to realize in excess of $50 million, The Wolf Family Collection will be offered at Sotheby’s New York beginning this April across an historic series of single-owner sales (see full schedule below), all together constituting one of the largest and most significant private collections of American art to ever come to auction. 

The sale series will launch with a season-defining Evening Sale, The Spirit of America, showcasing a selection of the Collection’s top masterworks in fine art, sculpture, furniture, Chinese Export porcelain, silver and 20th century design. The Spirit of America will be the first sale of its kind to present masterpieces from these diverse collecting fields in one auction, followed by a series of cross-category live and online sales curated to reflect the narratives and dialogues across the collection.

Kayla Carlsen, Sotheby’s Head of American Art said, "Few collections so seamlessly bridge the currents of American art across centuries as does the Wolf collection, which, through this carefully selected group of paintings and sculptures, articulates a unique story of American history from Colonial America through the 20th century. It is a deeply personal collection that wonderfully captures the breadth of the Wolf’s areas of interest and their deep and abiding passion for American art.” 

The Wolf Family Collection will be offered in first live Evening Sale at Sotheby's New York on 19 April,


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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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