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Up for auction: artworks owned by the late Anne Bass, major Fort Worth and New York arts patron

Pair of Mark Rothko paintings flank a Claude Monet painting in Anne Bass' New York home
Visko Hatfield
A pair of Mark Rothko paintings flank a Claude Monet in Anne Bass' Fifth Avenue home

Estimated at $250 million, the private art collection of Anne Hendricks Bass — a major arts philanthropist in Fort Worth and New York — will be auctioned at Christie's.

It's been called "the most important American collection" to come up for auction this season.

There are only a dozen paintings and statues selected from the late Anne Bass' private collection, but the art — including works by Mark Rothko, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet — is estimated by Christie's auction house to be worth at least $250 million.

That's because among the works are original masterpieces, including a bronze cast of Impressionist artist Edgar Degas’ best-known sculpture, “La Petite Danseuse de quatorze ans" ("The Little 14-Year-Old Dancer") and three paintings by Monet which hung in Bass' New York dining room: one from his famous "water lilly" series and another from the series depicting the British Houses of Parliament in a foggy twilight.

According to Christie's, this is the "most important American collection to arrive on the market this season." Capera Ryan, deputy chairman of Christie's, said the works were chosen for sale by members of Bass' family.

Bass died from ovarian cancer two years ago at 78. She divorced her Texas billionaire husband Sid Bass in 1988. He's one of the Fort Worth Basses, the wealthy oil family that has been a major force in shaping the city, particularly its downtown development, the new Panther Island project and its cultural scene.

According to Forbes, much of the art up for auction this month was purchased during the couple's 22-year marriage. The divorce settlement reportedly left Anne Bass with $200 million, plus their Central Park apartment and their spectacular, Paul Rudolph-designed Fort Worth home. Bass later purchased estates in Connecticut and Nevis, the Caribbean island, both of which she had extensively landscaped, reflecting her love of gardening.

The foyer to Anne Bass' New York apartment, featuring a painting by Balthus and a sculpture by Edgar Degas
Steve Freihon
The foyer to Anne Bass' New York apartment with "Jeune fille à la fenêtre" ("Young Girl at the Window") by Balthus and "Petite danseuse de quatorze ("Little 14-year-Old Dancer") by Edgar Degas.

Julian Lethbridge, her longtime partner at the time of her death, told The New York Times that the estate itself would be untouched, perhaps becoming part of a land conservancy. "Nothing will be sold," he said, "neither in Connecticut or Nevis or Texas."

In addition to her support of Fort Worth arts groups — notably Texas Ballet Theater, the Cliburn and the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art — Bass was a powerful, even perfectionist patron in New York art circles. She supported the Modern Art Museum, and out of her longtime love of dance, she was deeply involved with the New York City Ballet. She especially admired the great choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the company.

The dozen artworks for sale at Christie's reveal Bass' personal interests as a patron, a lover of dance and a female collector. This was evident in the entrance to her New York apartment. The foyer featured two works, flanking a doorway: the painting, "Young Girl at the Window," by Balthus and Edgar Degas' statue of the little ballerina.

Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks at You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.

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Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.