Auction sales of Robert Motherwell’s artworks totaled $16.1 million last year. Next month, a single painting by the postwar American artist could fetch that much.

“At Five in the Afternoon,” Motherwell’s monumental canvas, is estimated at $13 million to $16 million by Phillips auction house and will be the cover lot of the company’s evening sale of 20th century art on May 17 in New York.

The 1971 canvas is part of the artist’s “Elegy" series of about 170 paintings that were related to the Spanish Civil War. Most depict basic geometric shapes -- ovals and vertical rectangles -- in black on white.

Now they’re making a foray into pop culture. In the current season of “Billions,” the Showtime series featuring fictional hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod, a large Elegy painting adorns Axelrod’s Manhattan penthouse. The character was partly based on hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, a major collector of modern and contemporary art.

“They became his most famous paintings,” Robert Manley, worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips, said of Motherwell’s works. “He did them throughout his career, but most of them are in museums."

‘Favorite Piece’
The seller of the real-life Motherwell is Holly Hunt, a Chicago-based interior designer and entrepreneur, who said she bought it for less than $500,000 in 1981. For years, the 10-foot-wide painting was prominently displayed in her apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.

“It was my favorite piece in the collection,” said Hunt, who sold her furnishings company to Knoll Inc. for $95 million in 2014. “I am trying not to regret it.”

Hunt is building a house in Aspen, Colorado, and her adult children have no interest in collecting art, she said. “I am lightening my life.”

Motherwell (1915-1991) was a member of the New York School that also included Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. For more than a decade he was married to artist Helen Frankenthaler.

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