Ann & Gordon Getty's Astounding Personal Art Collection Heads to Auction
Updated: Oct 17, 2022
Christie's is offering the sale through October 25.
By Bart Boehlert
All images courtesy of Christie's unless otherwise specified.
In a fortuitous encounter in 1964, Ann Gilbert—an anthropology graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the daughter of a farmer—met Gordon Getty, the fourth son of billionaire oil baron J. Paul Getty, in a bar in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, they eloped in Las Vegas and were married for 56 years.
The Gettys had four sons and lived in a mansion in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco where, driven by Gordon’s wealth and Ann’s intellectual curiously and great style, they amassed an astonishing collection of antiques and art, which were beautifully arranged in the family mansion by Ann into sumptuous layers of colors, patterns, textures, and periods.
In the Getty home, objects and paintings ranging from 19th-century French to 18th-century Chinese and country-house English mingled together with one another in a treasure trove of interior riches. Russian chandeliers, rock crystal lamps, mirrored cabinets, and gilt bronze Boulle chests all met in luxuriously composed rooms.
Where others might hang a wall, salon-style, with family photos, the Gettys stacked paintings by Monet, Pissarro, Vuillard, Moreau and more. Henri Matisse was a favorite of Ann's, so she placed a master work by the artist at the top of the staircase where she would pass it several times a day.
“It’s totally original. I think it’s the most important interior in America,” said Jonathan Rendell, Deputy Chairman at Christie’s.
Ann Getty died in 2020, age 79, and now Gordon, age 88, is bringing the collection to auction at Christie’s in New York. From October 10 -25, online and live auctions will offer approximately 1,500 lots including Chinese and Japanese art and textiles, English and European furniture, important paintings, and even jewelry and handbags. Ann Getty loved Venice, and a centerpiece of the collection is Venice, the Grand Canal Looking East by Canaletto (above), estimated at $6 million. A similar painting is part of the royal collection at Windsor Castle.
Ann and Gordon Getty were grand patrons of the arts, and inspired by her love of anthropology and exploration, Ann traveled the world on the Getty’s private Boeing 727, known as “the Jetty,” to acquire fine art and furniture. In “Growing Up Getty” (Simon & Schuster), a new book about the sprawling dynasty that is a triumph of research and fact-finding, author James Reginato reports that after Ann renovated the family home, the Gettys bought the two mansions next door. “By the time the three properties were joined—which gave the couple some 30,000 square feet—she had created one of the most palatial private residences in America,” writes Reginato. Besides her own home, Ann decorated other residences as well and even opened her own design firm. “Ann Getty: Interior Style,” published by Rizzoli in 2012, explored Getty’s work and how she combined objects and art from different time periods and styles to create richly nuanced rooms.
The Christie’s auction is expected to raise more than $180 million, and will benefit the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, which supports arts, educations and science
organizations. Among the groups expected to be aided are the University of San Francisco, the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera.
See below for more of the works featured in the Getty auction collection. To learn more about the auction, which runs through October 25, click here.
Clockwise from top left: Bernardo Bellotto, Venice, the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge; Rare Pair of Chinese Painted Garden Seats; Enameled Gold Wine Cup, India; Henri Matisse, Bouquet, Vase Chinoiserie.