Record Executive's Art Collection to Be Auctioned at Sotheby's in May

Ostin was an art enthusiast whose major works include Magritte, Basquiat and Twombly.

Record Executive's Art Collection to Be Auctioned at Sotheby's in May


Mo Ostin was a music industry force who passed away in August. He was an avid art lover whose works included those of Magritte and Basquiat, as well as Twombly.



Mo Ostin, who died in August aged 95, was known as a powerful executive within the music industry. He worked with many of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century, including Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix.

According to his son Michael Ostin, Ostin loved to 'ritually' tour museums and galleries to learn about artists. He never bought more art than he had room for in his house.

Lorne Michals, creator of Saturday Night Live and friend of Mo Ostin, recently said that there was a stoicism in his way of looking at things and appraising them.

The Mo Ostin Collection will be auctioned by Sotheby's in May. It includes more than 30 paintings and drawings from artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso. Roy Lichtenstein, Cecily Brown, and others, are included. This collection is the centerpiece and highlight of our May New York auction season,' Brooke Lampley said, Sotheby’s chairman and global head of sales for fine art.

The collection is centered around two large Surrealist paintings, which were displayed prominently in Ostin’s house in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades. On either side of his fireplace in the family room, he and wife Evelyn hung two works by Belgian artist Rene Magritte. 'The Domain of Arnheim', executed in 1949, as well as 'The Empire of Light', from 1951.

How to Price Art

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Hot commodities Around the world, paintings and other artworks are sold regularly at auctions. These are the most expensive paintings sold in the last few years.

Andy Warhol's 'Shot Sage Blue Marilyn.' Warhol's 1964 silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million in May 2022. This was the highest price ever paid for an American art work at auction.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's 'Untitled.' In May 2022, a 1982 Basquiat work of a horned Devil sold for $85 Million with fees. This was the third highest price ever paid for a Basquiat painting. The highest price, however, was $110.5 millions in 2017 when a large-scale Basquiat skull painting sold at Sotheby's.

Rene Magritte's 'L'empire de lumieres. The painting is one of Magritte’s famous 'Empire of Light" canvases. It sold in March 2022, for 59.4 millions pounds, plus fees. That's about $79.7million. The painting, which contrasts a lamp-lit night street with a calm daytime sky, is among the most celebrated images of 20th century art.

Frida Kahlo's 'Diego and I.' A Frida Kahlo oil painting sold at Sotheby's for $34.9m in November 2021. This set a new auction record for the most expensive Latin American artwork. This painting is Kahlo’s last self-portrait and a good example of her unsettling intimacy, which has drawn collectors.

Piet Mondrian's 'Composition No. In November 2022, a classic grid painting of Mondrian's sold at Sotheby's for $51million, including fees. This was a record-breaking price for his work, surpassing the $50.6million benchmark. Mondrian's de Stijl style is reflected in the painting, which combines the primary colors with the geometric rigidity.

The Domain of Arnheim', which is estimated to sell between $15 and $25 million, belongs to a series of works inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's story of the same title, where the protagonist tries to "create the perfect environment." Magritte used a broken glass window to frame a mountain range in the form of an eagle, while the pieces of glass above depicted the natural landscape. The artist's 17 oil paintings, 'The Empire of Light', with an estimated value of $35-45 million, juxtapose an evening landscape and a sunlit night sky.


Ostin, as an executive, developed a philosophy of artist-first that allowed him to give wide latitude for the talents in which he believed. He signed Prince in 1977 to a deal for three albums and gave him creative control. Michael Ostin, his son, said that it was never about chasing hit records. Michael Ostin said that his father always believed in finding the best talent and empowering them to do their very best work. If they did indeed make great records, the fame would surely follow.

Success will follow if you trust your instincts and do what you love. Ostin shared his approach with other key figures from the entertainment industry.

Michaels found himself at a crossroads in 1985. In 1980, he left 'Saturday Night Live" to pursue independent projects. He also wrote the movie 'Three Amigos.' With Steve Martin and Randy Newman. Brandon Tartikoff gave Michaels a ultimatum in 1985. He was the president of NBC Entertainment. Tartikoff told Michaels that if he returned, NBC would keep the show, but if he didn't, they'd cancel it.

Michaels told a phone interviewer that he had to make a difficult decision. Ostin offered 'the best advise'.

Ostin, the then Chairman and Chief Executive at Warner Bros. Records told Michaels that it would be difficult to go back, because it was a different time. But it was what he loved.

The show could have ended after 10 years, but it is now approaching its 50th season -- a feat that is in part due to the influence of Ostin.


Even after Ostin retired from the military, his passion for music took him around the globe. Ostin and Michaels stood on a plank at the side of stage in Hyde Park London to watch the Who's fiftyth anniversary concert. Michaels, who is 78 years old, said: 'I saw him and thought, he must be 86. He's here.' 'You can keep going as long as you want.'

Ostin was a meticulous collector. Martin, an art collector himself, said that Ostin was a true fan. He could look at and talk about the painting for hours. Around the late 1990s, Norman Granz - the jazz impresario, executive of Clef Records and the Tate Museum in London - had a Picasso on sale. Martin described the painting as a beautiful Dora Maar.

After dropping out of the U.C.L.A. law school, Ostin began his career in music in 1954 at Clef Records (which later became Verve Records). Granz, an art collector and friend of Picasso's, introduced Ostin to fine arts. Michaels told Michaels that Ostin was very interested in fine art when he became wealthy.

All 33 of the works that are being sold at Sotheby's were from Ostin's home. In the living room where two Magrittes were hung, a large Joan Mitchell portrait faced them. In the dining room two Picassos appeared either side of the fireplace below an Arshile-Gorky painting. In the entranceway, three Cy Twombly paintings welcomed guests.

Michael Ostin, 68, grew up surrounded by art. He was a former executive at Warner Bros., president of DreamWorks and currently manages A Tribe Called Quest and Q-Tip.

His father's words of advice: "Trust your taste. Listen to your gut. Buy what you love."