Andy Warhol portraits of Muhammad Ali, Tom Seaver, Chris Evert and other star athletes from the 1970s will be sold at auction in November.

Pele, Jack Nicklaus and Dorothy Hamill are also featured in the group of 10 silkscreen paintings commissioned by late collector Richard Weisman that will be offered at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art auctions Nov. 13-14 in New York, the company announced Monday. Ali is expected to be the top lot with an estimate of $4 million to $6 million.

Some of the Warhols on offer drew headlines a decade ago when they were among works reportedly stolen from Weisman’s home in Los Angeles. At the time, he said he planned to forgo the hassle of an insurance claim. “Thankfully, the works were returned to the Weismans unaffected and have since remained part of the family collection,” Christie’s said in an emailed statement.

Weisman, the son of Los Angeles collectors and philanthropists Frederick and Marcia Weisman, was a friend of Warhol’s and approached him with an idea to combine his two passions of art and sports.

“Andy didn’t really know the difference between a football and a golf ball,” Weisman said in a 2003 book he published about his collection.

So it was Weisman’s job to select the athletes, according to Christie’s. One basketball player demanded a complete set of portraits, rather than the single portrait of himself that was being offered. He was substituted with future Hall of Fame inductee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose portrait is estimated to fetch $300,000 to $500,000.

‘A Flop’
Warhol spent two years photographing the athletes with his Polaroid Big Shot camera. The works were completed between 1977 and 1979. Each measures 40 inches square and will be sold separately. In 2011, the entire group fetched $5.7 million at auction. The composite low estimate for the 10 works in November auctions is $6.2 million.

The collection was initially “a flop,” Weisman’s daughter, Abby Weisman, said in an interview. “It was an odd idea because at the time these worlds didn’t mix at all,” she said. “It was quite different from the society portraits and movie star portraits.”

Three works in the auction -- featuring Pele, Hamill and Abdul-Jabbar -- are listed as “recovered” on the Los Angeles Police Department’s website tracking stolen prints and paintings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation returned them in 2015, according to Sara Friedlander, who oversees Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department in New York. Richard Weisman had wanted the art more than the insurance money, she said.

The auction house is offering pieces individually, not as a set. Unlike some of Warhol’s other works, they are not editioned and each painting is unique. Ali, Evert, Pele, Nicklaus, Abdul-Jabbar and O.J. Simpson signed their portraits.

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