Beastie Boys rapper Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond is selling his mum’s spectacular collection of Old Masters and contemporary art at Sotheby’s in New York. Entitled ‘Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond’, the upcoming sale is expected to fetch as much as $30 million (£23 million).
Reminiscing about his late mother and her collecting style, Mike D remarked “the juxtaposition of styles of furniture and paintings and sculpture is honestly, very striking. It really is something that’s rare in our world, that we have people like my mom, who are so comfortable in their own point of view.”
Throughout her life the dynamic interior designer Hester Diamond amassed a mesmerising collection full of eccentric and colourful pieces. She began collecting in her 20’s with her first husband and Mike’s father Harold Diamond. From humble beginnings as a social worker and teacher, Hester and Harold became the first art dealers to introduce English sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) to the United States.
“My mom and dad were completely integrated into the New York City contemporary art world before I was born,” recalled Mike D. “Quite a number of the Rothkos that are sold at Sotheby’s today at some point went through my parents.”
While Harold mostly collected contemporary art until his death in 1982, Hester spent the following decades passionately purchasing Old Masters until she passed away aged 91 in January 2020. The Beastie Boys frontman bemused “I’m sure there was a long line of people saying: ‘Hester what are you doing? You have this incredible collection, why would you ever switch it up?’”
It is this conviction in the face of change that defined Hester and her collection. Shortly before her death, Hester was still eagerly submitting bids on a pair of sculptures from her hospital bed. George Wachter, co-chairman of Old Master Paintings worldwide at Sotheby’s, said “she was three to four months from dying, but she had a hunger—she was fearless. She had never seen these sculptures, but she loved them and decided on her own, unprompted, to buy them.”
Sotheby’s sale of the eclectic collection comprises 60 lots. The leading lot is a rare sculpture of ‘Autumn’ by father and son artists Pietro (1562-1629) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), which is estimated to fetch between $8-12 million (£6-9 million).
Other Old Masters in the sale include a triptych by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502-1550), Jörg Lederer’s (1470-1550) sculpture of Saint Sebastian, friezes by Dosso Dossi (1489-1542), and a painting of Mary Magdalene by Filippino Lippi (1457-1504). There are contemporary works by artists Dustin Yellin and Bill Viola, as well as furniture, books, crystals, and Beastie Boys memorabilia.
Hester’s passion for art history extended beyond collecting too. She cofounded the Medici Archive Project, which digitizes and preserves documents from the renowned Florentine Medici family, and VISTAS (Virtual Images of Sculpture in Time and Space), which provides scholarships for the study of Old Master sculpture.
Through her distinctive interior design, the visionary art dealer also blazed a trail for displaying contemporary and historic pieces side by side. Sotheby’s reflected: “The ease in which Hester displayed art and objects across time periods demonstrated the frivolity of artificial barriers imposed among collecting categories, and she proved that they could be broken.”
‘Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond’ will take place online and at Sotheby’s New York in January 2021.