Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary, and the son of top art dealer Robert Mnuchin, has been making headlines lately. The latest is his ownership stake in a multi-million dollar Willem de Kooning painting.
The disclosure is part of a broader, lengthy list of assets, income, compensation, and business agreements listed on a public financial disclosure report filed with the US Office of Government Ethics.
According to a Bloomberg report yesterday, Mnuchin plans to divest his interests in 43 companies and investments to avoid conflicts, but it is unclear if the de Kooning painting falls under this category. A 42-page disclosure report shows that the painting is listed among Mnuchin’s “other assets and income.” artnet News reached out to the US Office of Government Ethics but did not receive an immediate response.
According to the filing, Mnuchin owns a stake in de Kooning’s Untitled III, a 1978 painting that last appeared at auction at Christie’s New York in November 2014, where it sold for $14.7 million, compared with an estimate of $12 million to $18 million. According to the catalogue entry, Christie’s disclosed a third-party guarantor (a person outside the auction house who assumes an interest in a work in order to mitigate the house’s risk when it offers an expensive work for sale). A Christie’s spokesperson declined to comment as to whether Mnuchin was the third party guarantor or a current owner in an email to artnet News.
Bloomberg reports that the interest is part of a “dynasty trust,” a financial vehicle—in this case that has a minimum value of $32.9 million—which also includes securities filings from Goldman Sachs and a three-engine corporate jet. Mnuchin, Bloomberg says, may be taking advantage of a loophole that allows the country’s wealthiest families to protect their holdings from estate taxes for generations.
Mnuchin’s stake in Untitled III is valued at between “$5,000,001– $25,000,000,” according to his filing. The painting appears to be the only artwork listed in the report. The Christie’s catalogue notes that “Untitled III is among a series of paintings made in the late 1970s that convey a keen sense of place—the atmospheres of ocean and the sky in East Hampton…The soft, voluptuous colors and textures of glue-greens and melting whites and yellows summon the out of door ambiance of natural light.”
The provenance of the painting as outlined in sale catalogue shows the ownership chain as follows:
Estate of Willem de Kooning, New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
L&M Arts, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The penultimate owner, L&M Gallery, or Levy and Mnuchin, is no longer in operation. It was a multi-year partnership between Munchin’s father, Robert, himself a former Goldman Sachs executive, and Dominique Lévy. They dissolved their partnership in late 2012, and both Levy and Mnuchin started their own Upper East Side galleries.
More recently, Lévy partnered with Christie’s longtime contemporary art department head and rainmaker Brett Gorvy on a new partnership called Lévy Gorvy.
De Kooning, known for his groundbreaking Abstract Expressionist works, was a prolific painter and remains one of the most expensive artists in the contemporary realm. According to the artnet Price Database, more than 2,400 of his works have been offered at auction, and eight of his works have sold for over $20 million.
The current record for the artist is $66.3 million, set at Christie’s New York this past fall, for Untitled XXV (1977).
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