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Pappajohns’s Art Collection To Be Auctioned at Christie’s in May


Works from the art collection of Iowa business leader and philanthropist John Pappajohn and his wife Mary will be offered as a group of highlights during Christie’s Spring sales in New York next month, the auction house announced Friday. 

The Pappajohns were a mainstay of ARTnews’s Top 200 collector list from 1998 to 2014. John passed away last year on April 26 at 94. Mary, aged 88, died in 2022.

The collection, which is comprised of works by post-war and contemporary luminaries including  Bruce Nauman, Agnes Martin, and Ad Reinhardt, will be led by Jasper Johns’s 1961 work 0 through 9 (estimate $5 million – $7 million) which debuted that same year at the artist’s first European show at Galerie Rive Droite in Paris.     

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Johanna Flaum, Christie’s vice chairman of 20th and 21st century art, described the Pappajohns’s collection as “richly reflective of post-war and contemporary art in America” and “best in class,” and praised the couple, who began collecting art in the 1960s, for acquiring works that at the time “challenged accepted norms and pushed boundaries, proposing new concepts and ideas of what art could be.”

Also notable among the collection is Agnes Martin’s acrylic and graphite canvas Untitled #7 from 1996 (estimate $3 million – $5 million) and Bruce Nauman’s sexually charged Hanged Man (1985, estimate $4 million – $6 million).

John and Mary Pappajohn began collection art shortly after they were married in 1961. Their first purchase was a Keith Achepol print that cost $50.  The Pappajohns would eventually amass a collection worth millions and earn a reputation as top-tier collectors and philanthropists who would become major donors to the Des Moines Art Center, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the University of Iowa. 

The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, a 4.4-acre, $30 million, public park in downtown Des Moines managed by the Des Moines Art Center is among their greatest philanthropic achievements. 

 Works from the Pappajohns’s collection will be offered throughout the May sales including both the 20th and the 21st Century Evening sales (May 14 and May 16, respectively) and the following day sales. 



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