Real estate mogul and billionaire art collector Sheldon H. Solow died on November 17 at the age of 92. According to Bloomberg, which first reported the news, he died at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical Center. The cause of death was lymphoma.
With a net worth of $3.1 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, Solow’s vast development portfolio includes a New York office building tower in his name, a group of rental buildings, and one of the city’s biggest development grounds in Midtown East. Solow began his real estate career in the 1950s. In 2000, together with the Fisher real estate group, he moved to expand development throughout Manhattan, winning a $600 million bid on a Con Ed property to build a complex. The deal would later turn into a legal battle between the buying partners.
Solow is also the founder of a nonprofit, the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation, located at the developer’s 9 West 57th Street building, which provides funding to educational and art institutions and also houses works from his formidable modern and contemporary art collection. According to the organization’s 2017 tax filing, the foundation’s assets were valued at $217 million.
On that form, which was reviewed by ARTnews, the foundation listed various pieces in its holdings, including an $84 million Botticelli portrait (set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York in January 2021), a $60 million Joan Miró triptych, a $40 million Van Gogh, and more including works by postwar and contemporary artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly. His collection has in the past also included works by leading modernists Balthus, Henri Matisse, Artistide Maillol, Alexej von Jawlensky, and Henry Moore.
Solow has sold a selection of major works from his collection at auction in recent years. He parted ways with an Alberto Giacometti sculpture that sold for a record-breaking $141.3 million at Christie’s New York in 2015, as well as an Amedeo Modigliani painting that went for $42.1 million in February 2013. He also sold Francis Bacon’s Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1963), which made $33.5 million at Christies’ London in 2012, and a 1909 Picasso at Sotheby’s London that sold for £43.3 million sale ($63.6 million) in 2016.
Born in Brooklyn in 1928, Solow’s father Isaac was a bricklayer and his mother Jennie, a homemaker. After leaving New York University in 1949, he worked on real estate ventures with his father. He figured on ARTnews‘s Top 200 Collectors list three times, in 1990, 1991, and 1992.