Sotheby’s will auction 26 artworks owned by Morton Mandel and his wife 

In 1982, when Forbes initiated the Forbes 400 list – a listing of the 400 wealthiest Americans – you needed a minimum of $75 million to make the cut. Rounding off that list were brothers Jack, Joseph and Morton who had equal stakes in electronic components distributor Premier Industrial Corporation. Morton and his brothers set up their business in 1940 using just $900 and sold it 56 years later for $2.8 billion.

The brothers who built their multi-billion-dollar business began their charitable foundation back in 1953. In an interview with Bloomberg,  the 96-year-old Morton – the only surviving member of the three brothers – explained that when they established the foundation in the Fifties, he and his brothers each had a new car, bank accounts and no unpaid bills. With the $7,000 lying idle in the bank, they decided to set up the Mandel Foundation.

Mandel Foundation Sotheby's

Joan Miró, Femme, oiseau, 1969-1974 (left); Donald Judd, Untitled, 1993 (right). Image courtesy: Sotheby’s

In the 65 years since its inception, the Mandel Foundation has grown into one which has around $1 billion in assets with a large part of its efforts directed towards education and leadership.

That incredible wealth accumulation over five decades meant that Morton and his wife Barbara could indulge themselves and secure some of the world’s finest works of art, most of which they bought between 1985 and 2000. Now, the couple has donated 26 artworks from their personal collection to the foundation.

Mandel Foundation Sotheby's

Roy Lichtenstein, Woman IV, 1982 (left); Willem de Kooning, Untitled VI, 1980 (right). Image courtesy: Sotheby’s

The Cleveland-based foundation has engaged Sotheby’s to sell these pieces from mega artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. Some of the most high-profile pieces include “Femme, oiseau” valued at between $10 million –  $15 million and Lichtenstein’s “Wall Explosion No. 3” worth between $2 million – $3 million. Then there’s Warhol’s blue flowers which is estimated at $2 million – $3 million and a red-and-white Rothko oil-on-paper valued at $7 million – $8 million.

The artworks which will be auctioned in New York in May are expected to collectively fetch $75 million which will provide the Mandel foundation with a fresh injection of cash. A recent report by the UBS Group AG and PricewaterhouseCoopers said that over the next 20 years, they expect that those who are 70 years and older will transfer $2.4 trillion to charities and heirs.