Let us all shed a tear for disgraced Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. chairman Richard Fuld Jr., forced out from the helm of power and now forced to do what the rest of us do when money gets tight: Cut expenses and sell off assets. He's just put a block of post-war artwork up for November auction.
Except Fuld's assets are a bit richer than yours or mine, I suspect. Fuld and his wife Kathy are longtime art collectors, and Kathy, in particular, is noted as a collector of American modern art. She's a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is known to have a keen eye for undervalued master works. But she's known more as a collector, not so much a seller. I guess sometimes you have to sacrifice.
The auction house Christie's gave a pre-sale estimate for the block of 16 drawings as between $15 and $20 million. It's shopping the lot around to buyers in Europe and Asia, where they still have that kind of money for things to hang on their walls. Indeed, today's art market is dominated by these buyers.
The twist here is that newly-wealthy art collectors in these places like to chase trophy paintings -- impressionists and modernists, that are practically household names. Mrs. Fuld has sought out drawings by American masters, and in particular their more subtle works and studies. While beautiful and valuable, these pieces tend to fly under the radar of the noveau riche. The American collectors more likely to snap this collection up are now, well, probably nursing their net worth for the time being. A condition that Mr. Feld didn't help along when he rode Lehman Bros. to collapse and set off the credit panic.
What to do when you're a fallen mogul? Sell that artwork!