Over his lifetime, the late philanthropist, patron of the arts and poet William Louis-Dreyfus amassed an eclectic collection of over 3,000 works of art, mixing pieces by established figures such as Alberto Giacometti and Helen Frankenthaler with others by self-taught “outsider” artists, including Bill Traylor, Clementine Hunter and James Castle.
On January 18 in New York, 40 of his striking outsider works will be auctioned by Christie’s to mark the beginning of a three-year collaboration with The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation, which supports emerging self-taught artists, and the Harlem Children’s Zone, which runs educational, health and social programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty. A committed advocate of the importance of providing education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, Louis-Dreyfus was also a passionate defender of the right to vote, publishing a full-page advert against voter suppression in The New York Times in 2012 entitled: “A call to arms to the wealthy to protect the right to vote”.
His daughter, the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has said of him: “My father was never shy about what he believed in and, more than anything, he believed in art and justice. He once told me that when he first started to collect outsider art, he didn’t know that it was outsider art, he just thought it was good.”
The works will be on preview at Christie’s New York from January 12, and proceeds from the sale (estimates start at €800) will go to the foundation’s operations and Harlem Children’s Zone, which so far has enabled over 800 students to graduate from college.