Debt and family disputes continue to whittle away at a tribal art collection, assembled by John and Marcia Friede, that the de Young Museum in San Francisco once expected to own in its entirety. The Friedes promised their 4,000-piece collection to the de Young in a series of agreements completed in 2007. But a battle over the estate of Mr. Friede’s mother, Evelyn A.J. Hall, and a roughly $25 million debt owed by the Friedes to Sotheby’s, have threatened to break up the collection, considered one of the best in the world.
Starting next month, Sotheby’s plans to auction 10 works from the collection in order to pay down the Friedes’ debt; in October, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that Sotheby’s could take possession of 54 works. Seven will go on the block in New York on May 15, including a half-figure of the god Irawáke, from Papua New Guinea, with an estimated price of more than $1 million, and a drum from the Torres Straits Islands, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. Three other works will be auctioned in Paris on June 17.
Meanwhile, Mr. Friede’s brother and half-brother, Robert Friede and Thomas Jaffe, are pressuring him to pay approximately $10 million he owes them from the settlement of their mother’s estate, and against which he offered the collection as collateral. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that the City of San Francisco, which has taken legal action on behalf of the de Young against the three brothers, will allow 76 works to be sold to pay off the debt to Mr. Jaffe and Robert Friede. The city estimates that the 76 works will bring in $3.5 million.