Sotheby's auctioneer David Redden donates archive to Getty Research Institute
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Sotheby's auctioneer David Redden donates archive to Getty Research Institute
David Redden, Sotheby’s vice chairman, at Sotheby’s auction, May 2004.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Getty Research Institute has received the donation of the papers of David Redden, the longest serving auctioneer at the venerable auction house Sotheby’s. The collection documents Redden’s entire career in the auction world.

Working at Sotheby's for 42 years, from 1974 until 2016, Redden is notable for the high-profile sales which he personally developed. A passionate collector himself, Redden created new auction categories out of popular collecting passions: space artifacts, sports memorabilia, comic books, arcade machines, and computer animation art. A portrait of both Redden and his milieu at Sotheby's, the collection comprises personal files, slides, photographs, complete sets of auction catalogs, and related ephemera.

“This archive, shaped by Redden's personal engagement, and documenting his first- hand knowledge and significant presence in the auction world, is a unique trove with a special personal perspective,” said Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute. “It creates not only a portrait of an influential figure in the auction world, but a portrait of Sotheby's and the extended business of buying and selling to collectors.”

An essential part of the archive are Redden's handwritten daily journals beginning in the 1990s in which he wrote every night , recording personal observations about the people with whom he worked, including staff, notable families, and collectors from all walks of life. The journals describe his efforts to develop new collecting areas and engage new or unrecognized kinds of collecting hitherto not a part of the international auction sales network.

It was Redden's role to develop and organize most of Sotheby's most important sales, and the archive contains entire notebooks and series of files that document negotiations, strategies, and the organization of highly important and extremely original collections, including the series of sales for Walt Disney, the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, the collections of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, nine Faberge eggs owned by the Forbes family, and the preserved fossil remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue.

Redden also sold important artworks, rare books, and manuscripts: three copies of the Declaration of Independence; the Empress Josephine's copies of Pierre-Joseph Redoute's Lilies, a book of original watercolors; Gilbert Stuart's iconic life-size Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and most recently, the Rothschild Pentateuch, one of the most elaborate illuminated Hebrew Bibles to survive from the Middle Ages, which was purchased by the Getty Museum in 2018.

“It gives me great pleasure to know that my diary of well over one million words and the associated papers are going to be preserved by one of the greatest art archives in the world,” says Redden. “ The GRI will now get an extremely detailed look at one side of Sotheby’s which I hope will be of interest to future scholars. I hope the lens I looked through will be as fascinating to others.”

David N. Redden was born in Canton, China, in 1949. He grew up and attended school in the foreign cities where his father's diplomatic career took the family, including Haifa, London, and Rome. Redden graduated high school at St. Stephen's School in Rome and attended Wesleyan University, receiving a degree in art history.

He joined Sotheby’s in 1974, beginning as a trainee in the catalog department. A year later he had become an auctioneer. In the late 1970s, Redden became the director of PB-84, a division of Sotheby’s for lower priced and unusual collections. A visionary collector and a gifted auctioneer, Redden managed many of Sotheby's most celebrated live auctions. Beginning in February 2000 he served as Vice-Chairman of Sotheby's until his retirement in 2016. He was also Worldwide Chair of Sotheby's Books and Manuscripts department.

The collection will be cataloged over the course of a number of years and then made available to researchers at the Getty Research Institute.

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