Past Auction

Auction of the Estate of Lena Horne on February 23, 2011 More Than Doubles the High Estimate

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 10am EST |
New York
View Lots

Hundreds of Fans Send Sale Total to $315,976 -- Far Surpassing the Estimate of $99,500-155,000

  • Hundreds of Fans Send Sale Total to $315,976 -- Far Surpassing the Estimate of $99,500-155,000
  • Elegant Costume Jewelry, Accessories, Gowns, Memorabilia, Decorations, Silver, Furniture, Books and Fine Art from Her Home on Manhattan's Upper East Side
  • Bidders Included a Number of Prominent Celebrities and Institutions

Doyle New York auctioned the estate of the legendary performer and civil rights pioneer Lena Horne on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. The Lena Horne collection comprised approximately 200 lots of elegant costume jewelry, accessories, gowns, memorabilia, decorations, silver, furniture, books and fine art from her home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The exhibition attracted thousands of her fans, and almost a thousand of them participated in this historic auction. Competition between bidders participating in the crowded salesroom, on the telephones, and via the Internet resulted in strong prices throughout the sale and a successful total of $315,976, more than doubling the high estimate of $99,500-155,000 with 100% of the lots sold.

The exhibition of the Estate of Lena Horne opened on Thursday, Febuary 17 at a star-studded reception with over 300 guests co-hosted by Doyle New York and the Apollo Theater. Members of Lena Horne's family, including her daughter Gail Lumet Buckley and granddaughters Jenny and Amy Lumet, were in attendance. Among the celebrity guests were Cicely Tyson, Angelica Huston, Geoffrey Holder, Leslie Uggams, Ruby Dee and many others. VIP guests also included NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, and numerous members of the NAACP board of directors.

Louis Vuitton

Highlighting the auction was a small Louis Vuitton trunk with SS France stickers inscribed Lena Horne Hayton. The trunk was mute testimony of an age when intermarriage between blacks and whites was illegal in America, forcing Lena Horne and her husband, composer and conductor Lennie Hayton, to keep their marriage secret for over a decade. Their trips to Europe were always taken on French liners, where they were allowed to share the same stateroom as a married couple. The trunk attracted more attention than any other lot in the collection, and fierce competition sent its price soaring over the pre-sale estimate of $500-700 to reach a staggering $20,000.

Fine Art

Lena Horne’s collection of art featured a colorful abstract by Charles Alston (American, 1907-1977), one of the most prominent African-American artists, muralists and teachers of the 20th century. The work sold for $20,000. By David Burliuk (Russian/American, 1882-1967) was a charming work depicting boaters on a lake entitled Fishing that achieved $12,500. Attracting strong bidder interest was a 1959 oil portrait of Lena Horne by Geoffrey Holder (American, b. 1930) that fetched $10,625, an auction record for the artist.


Photographs in the sale featured a 1940 gelatin silver print of the beach at Atlantic City by James van der Zee from his portfolio 18 Photographs that sold for $9,375. Attracting a great deal of interest at the sale was a very rare set of five contact sheets by Richard Avedon of a session with Lena Horne that achieved $8,750.

Couture and Accessories

The selection of couture and accessories from Lena Horne’s collection included a reversible mink coat constructed from indigo embroidered cotton and dark brown mink by her favorite designer, Giorgio di Sant' Angelo, that sold for $8,125. A pair of sparkling cuff bracelets, circa 1970, of gold metallic leather studded with large mirrored discs and rhinestones sold for $6,250. The pair were subsequently borrowed by Lena Horne’s granddaughter, Jenny Lumet, to wear to the 83rd Academy Awards Ceremony, where there was a special tribute to Lena Horne narrated by Halle Berry.

Born in Brooklyn, Lena Horne (1917-2010) began her professional life at 16 in the chorus line at Harlem’s Cotton Club, before moving to Hollywood and appearing in a series of acclaimed film roles. Beginning in the 1950s, she focused increasingly on live performance, becoming one of the world’s premiere nightclub entertainers. Through her many recordings and television appearances, millions more became her fans.

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