Eli Wilner

Framer to the Stars at Auction

NEW YORK CITY - "Dora Maar" looked fantastic in her dark frame. The art world perhaps may never know whether the presentation helped propel the painting by Pablo Picasso to $95,216,000 at Sotheby's May 3 sale of Impressionist and Modern art, but Eli Wilner, who supplied the frame, is justifiably proud to be associated with the record.

"The second most expensive painting ever sold at auction," marveled Wilner, founder and chief executive officer of Eli Wilner & Company, a trusted source for American and European frames from the Nineteenth through early Twentieth Century. In a phone interview after Picasso's "Dora Maar au chat," one of the artist's most spectacular depictions of his lover and artistic companion, sold to an anonymous buyer, Wilner declined to say whether the painting and frame remained together after the auction. "That's confidential," he said.

He did say, however, that in the past two months his firm has loaned a total of 73 frames for both Sotheby's and Christie's to help showcase paintings being offered in their sales. His firm also supplied the frame for a masterpiece by famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo that crossed the block on May 24 at Sotheby's. For "Dora Maar," Wilner said Sotheby's requested a loaned frame for the painting because the auction house did not have one that was appropriate. "They asked us to find and loan them a frame," he said. Wilner did have a period frame that matched the sensibilities of the artist – a dark frame with a bit of gilding that would set off the painting and give it an Old Master glow – but had to cut it down several inches to accommodate Picasso's 51-by-38-inch work.

The company's ability to serve as such a resource to the auction houses comes from its extensive inventory. According to the company's website, Wilner's team of twenty-five skilled professionals, including 15 frame conservators, have completed approximately 6,000 framing projects, including for museums, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and for The White House. "We go around the world snapping pictures, and we have built up a library of thousands of photos," said Wilner. Wilner said his personal best in terms of a top price realized for a frame is $250,000 for a Stanford White frame sold as an object in 1997. Related to the firm's sales of frames as objects in their own right, it recently created a division that specializes in framing flat screen televisions.

Eli Wilner & Company is at 1525 York Avenue.
For information, 212-744-6521 or www.eliwilner.com.

Eli Wilner with an empty frame

Eli Wilner in his gallery at 1525 York Avenue.
The firm's collection of American and European frames numbers in the thousands.