Hester Diamond Collection to Sell for as Much as $30M at Sotheby’s

The Hester Diamond collection features an impressive array of contemporary and Old Master art. The Sotheby’s sale is estimated to yield up to $30 million.

Oct 17, 2020By Charlotte Davis, BA Art History
Portrait of Hester Diamond for Artfully Dressed: Women in the Art World by Carla van de Puttelaar; with Autumn by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1616, via Sotheby’s


Part of the Hester Diamond collection of contemporary and Old Master art is coming to auction at Sotheby’s in New York. The heirs, including her son Michael Diamond, also known as “Mike D” from the hip hop group the Beastie Boys, will be selling the Diamond collection in January’s Classic Week sales. They will also be selling items from her personal collection of the hip-hop group’s memorabilia.


Hester Diamond, who died in February at the age of 91, was a prominent New York interior designer, collector and art dealer. According to the Financial Times, she had “assembled one of the great postwar collections of modern art in New York.”


The Diamond collection will be offered at an online sale called “Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond.” It will be made up of 60 lots, including both contemporary art and Old Master artwork, which Hester began to collect after her husband’s death in 1982. The total value of the sale is estimated at $30 million. 


The Diamond Collection: Sotheby’s Auction Highlights


The top lot of the Diamond collection sale is Autumn (1616), an “exceedingly rareBaroque sculpture by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is expected to break the artists’ record at an estimated $8-12 million, as not many Bernini sculptures remain privately owned. 


Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter

The Diamond collection also features an exceptionally curated collection of Old Master sculpture. Top among them is a limewood figure of St. Sebastian by Jörg Lederer, which is valued at $600,000-1 million. Another notable work is Madonna and Child (ca. 1510) by Girolamo Della Robbia, a glazed terracotta sculpture considered a “quintessential work” of the Florentine Renaissance.


Triptych of The Nativity, The Adoration of The Magi, The Presentation in the Temple by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 1520-25, via Sotheby’s


There is also an impressive selection of Renaissance paintings up for sale from the Diamond collection. One of the highlights is a pair of canvases by Italian High Renaissance painter Dosso Dossi: The Sicilian Games and The Plague at Pergamea. The pieces, which are sections from a 10-piece frieze of scenes from the Aeneid, are estimated at $3-5 million. 


Another Old Master artwork in the Diamond collection is the Northern Renaissance triptych The Nativity, The Adoration of The Magi, The Presentation in the Temple by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1520-25). It estimated at $2.5-3.5 million. Filippino Lippi’s Penitent Mary Magdalene Adoring the True Cross in a Rocky Landscape (late 1470s), depicting the cult devotional figure in 14th-century Florence, is also up for bid. The piece is estimated at $2-3 million. 


There are also several important pieces of modern and contemporary art from the Diamond collection up for sale. One of these is Ablutions by video artist Bill Viola. The video diptych is estimated at $70,000-100,000. Also coming to auction is Envy by Barry X Ball, modeled after a sculpture from the 17th-century by Gusto Le Court. It is estimated at $80,000-120,000. 


The Diamond collection also holds a notable group of exotic gemstones, minerals and metals that will be sold at the Sotheby’s auction. These include Smokey Quartz and Amazonite (estimated at $20,000-30,000); Naturally Etched Aquamarine (estimated at $20,000-30,000); and Amethyst ‘Rose’ (estimated at $1,000-2,000). 


Hester Diamond: From Contemporary Art To Old Masters


Interior shots of Hester Diamond’s New York apartment, via Sotheby’s


Starting her career as a social worker, Hester Diamond became immersed in the art world after taking a job at Stair and Company, a New York antiques gallery. She and her first husband, Harold Diamond, cultivated an impressive modern and contemporary art collection while living in New York together. Hester also started an interior design business and was well-known for her eclectic, refined tastes. 


However, after Harold’s death in 1982, Hester began to collect Old Master art. This led her to sell a significant amount of modern art from her collection, including works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky. She then furnished her Old Master collection with her second husband Ralph Kaminsky. 


Her love for the Old Masters drove her to co-found two non-profit organizations: The Medici Archive Project, which supports research for students and scholars focusing on Renaissance and Baroque art; and Vistas (Virtual Images of Sculpture in Time and Space), a publishing project for new scholarship on Old Master Sculpture.

Author Image

By Charlotte DavisBA Art HistoryCharlotte is a contributing writer from Portland, Oregon now based in London, England. I’m an art historian with extensive knowledge in art history, classics, ancient art and archaeology.