The late financier Don Marron’s collection of modern and contemporary art may be headed to auction, one of two major troves potentially coming to market this year with a combined value of more than $1 billion.

His family asked top auction houses to submit proposals next month, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The collection has been valued at about $450 million. The next big round of auctions in New York is in May.

This timeline pits the Marron trove against another significant collection that’s in play, thanks to the bitter divorce of octogenarians Harry and Linda Macklowe, who were ordered by a judge to sell their 65 most valuable works. Major auction houses are also competing for that trove, estimated at $700 million. Together, the Marron death and Macklowe divorce could pump more than $1 billion into the market for high-end art after a lackluster 2019.

Death and divorce are two of the “three Ds” that send masterpieces to the auction block. Debt is the third.

The availability of so much investment-grade material would be a stark reversal from the November auctions, which saw a dearth of significant estates and collections. The question is whether the market will be able absorb it all at once, especially because there’s some overlap between the Marron and Macklowe collections -- each features paintings by Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning.

Special Space
Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar and a 1957 Rothko canvas are the stars of the Marron collection, according to people familiar with it. His contemporary art holdings -- including colorful abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter, Brice Marden, Mark Bradford and Mark Grotjahn -- were displayed since 2018 in a special viewing space at the Fuller Building in Midtown Manhattan. Museum of Modern Art trustees including Ronald Lauder and MoMA Director Glenn Lowry visited in October.

The last work Marron bought was a sought-after Marden drawing from the artist’s recent exhibition at Gagosian gallery.

Marron’s widow, Catie Marron, declined to comment.

Marron, who died in December at age 85, began collecting in the early 1970s, initially focusing on Hudson River School artists and American prints. Artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha followed soon. Modern and contemporary art comprise the bulk of the collection, and scores of the works were donated to MoMA, where Marron was a long-time board member and served as president.

The financier collected art for personal pleasure and his offices, starting at Mitchell, Hutchins Inc., and then at Paine Webber and Lightyear Capital, where works by Claes Oldenburg, Chuck Close and Andy Warhol adorned the walls.

“He told me he never lost the excitement of looking at a piece of art,” Lauder said in a eulogy at Marron’s funeral. “And buying it.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.