In the Air
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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Mayor Bloomberg’s Hush-Hush Collection of Warhols and Old Masters Revealed

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New York mayor Michael Bloomberg prefers to downplay his billionaire status in favor of an “everyman” persona — he takes the subway to work and has been known to enjoy a Nathan’s hot dog or two. But now, his high-rolling ways — and his high-end art collection — have been exposed. The New York Times recently discovered detailed photographs of the mayor’s New York town house on East 79th Street as well as his London residence in Cadogan Square. The virtual tours were hiding in plain sight — on the Web site of his decorator, Jamie Drake.

The images, labeled only “Townhouse, NYC” and “Townhouse, London” were removed on Monday. Art voyeurs like IN THE AIR are now left to extrapolate from the small screen shot on the Times’ Web site just what treasures comprise Bloomberg’s collection. According to an antiques dealer consulted by the newspaper, a Dutch old master painting and an English Regency table worth $90,000 greet visitors in the foyer. In another room “sits what the dealer said was a $1 million Georgian Chippendale couch beneath what appeared to be an 18th-century portrait by a prominent painter like Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough, which might be worth $450,000.”

In the past, Bloomberg has admitted his taste skews toward the traditional (though the Times now describes it as “positively baronial”).  “I like lots of old masters,” Bloomberg said in a 2001 interview. “I have some portraits, Italian. I don’t like the ones, when you’ve got a head on a plate, no, that medieval religious stuff that is so serious and so overdone. Would I prefer to have Jasper Johns and de Kooning and Warhol stuff all around? I don’t know. That says less to me.”

According to the article, however, Bloomberg’s taste may have changed since 2001. Dignitaries visiting the mayor’s tony London abode will find a Marilyn Monroe silkscreen by Andy Warhol accompanied by a double flag and series of numbers by Jasper Johns. (Similar works by both artists have sold at auction for tens of millions of dollars.) To be sure, his old-fashioned taste still holds there too, with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin hanging above a fireplace, potentially by 18th-century French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze.

As for the photos of Bloomberg’s New York residence, what can we glean from these images? Squinting very hard, IN THE AIR can make out a pastel, delicately painted picture of some kind of building or church above the fireplace in Bloomberg’s New York living room — a Monet, perhaps. The other areas of the home are reproduced thumbnail-size in the screen shot, meaning specifics are almost impossible to make out. Still, we simply can’t resist: the bright purples and reds in the painting on the dining room wall look a little like Chagall, do they not?

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