Tour the Collection of a Legendary Art & Music Icon

Property from the Camilla and Earl McGrath Collection to be offered in Stair Galleries' Modern & Contemporary auction (June 3)

Music industry powerhouse. Art connoisseur. “Indefinable cultural force.”

These are just a few of the many titles one could use to describe the late Earl McGrath (1931-2016), who once wrote Hollywood screenplays in the 1960s, and later became president of Rolling Stones Records in 1977. While not so “well-known” to the masses, he was “very well known to the very well known,” as Vanity Fair described, and “the ultimate insider equally at home in the upper echelons of music, art, letters, and entertainment.”

Earl married Italian Countess Camilla Pecci-Blunt in 1963, and together, the collecting duo ascended among a world of art enthusiasts. Their collection began with interesting works gifted from friends, with which they mixed an accumulation of items they acquired on their exotic trips across the world. As Earl toured with the Rolling Stones and mingled in the music industry, and Camilla was herself a talented photographer, the McGraths’ lives inevitably intertwined with the lives of top creatives in arts and entertainment. These included Joan Didion, Brice Marden, Larry Rivers, and Robert Graham. Soon Earl, drawn to visual artists, transitioned from collector to gallery owner after leaving the music industry in the 1980s. In their Los Angeles home and New York City apartment, the couple hosted exclusive parties to gather the “who’s who” in art; the works they collected showed the bonds they formed with the artists they called friends.

“What makes the McGrath collection so interesting is that it represents every facet of their life,” says Lisa Thomas, Director of the Fine Arts Department at Stair Galleries. “The objects tell the story of their life and the relationships they had with writers, musicians, artists, and socialites.”

On June 3, pieces from the McGraths’ collection – an eclectic mix of contemporary art and ethnographic objects from their New York City apartment – will be offered in Star Galleries’ Modern & Contemporary auction. From pieces by Andy Warhol to Annie Leibovitz, Thomas takes us on a tour of the highlights below.

Italian Bronze Model of Romulus and Remus

Lot 13, Italian bronze model of Romulus and Remus, after the antique, estimate $1,000-1,500,
Stair Galleries (June 3)

“This object is one of many Italian objects from the McGraths’ New York City apartment. Camilla McGrath was an Italian countess from the Pecci-Blunt family, descendants of Pope Leo XIII. Her Italian heritage can be seen in many works from the collection, as well as in her photographs and her famous pasta dinners. Earl and Camilla met in Italy in 1958 at the Spoleto Festival. They summered at Camilla’s family’s estate, Marlia, near Lucca, the former residence of Napoleon’s sister Princess Elisa Bonaparte.”

Rolling Stones Platinum Record Award

Lot 39, Rolling Stones platinum record award, presented to McGrath for the
album Emotional Rescue, estimate $800-1200, Stair Galleries (June 3)

“Earl worked with Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records where he was made head of the Rolling Stones’ record label in 1970. The McGraths toured with the Stones and socialized with the who’s who of the jet-set around the world. Camilla was a photographer and captured their glamorous lifestyle in thousands of photos.”

Earl McGrath at 43 by Larry Rivers

“Earl McGrath at 43” by Larry Rivers, pencil and pastel on linen-backed paper, estimate
$1,500-3,000, Stair Galleries (June 3)

“Larry Rivers became friends with the McGraths in the early 1960s and painted their wedding portrait in 1965. Rivers worked in a figurative style at a time when Abstract Expressionism had a hold on the art world. He made many paintings and drawings of Earl, including this gift made for Earl’s 50th birthday.”

Watsonville by Brice Marden

Lot 30, “Watsonville” by Brice Marden, c. 1963, etching in black on
wove paper, estimate $2,000-4,000, Stair Galleries (June 3)

“Brice Marden and McGrath were close friends. The Earl McGrath Gallery showed Marden’s work, and Marden dedicated his important Talisman for Earl (1981-82) to his friend. Also included in the auction is a Robert Graham bronze mask of Marden’s face made as a gift for Earl.”

Anjelica Huston Portraits by Robert Graham

Lot 81, Left: “Anjelica Huston #4” by Robert Graham; Right: “Anjelica Huston #5” by Robert Graham,
2001, two conté crayon on paper, estimate $200-400, Stair Galleries (June 3)

“Earl represented Robert Graham and was one of his biggest supporters. The McGraths were very close with Graham and his wife Anjelica Huston. Included in the sale is this pair of portraits of Angelica Huston by Robert Graham.”

Hands by Pedro Friedeberg

“Hands” by Pedro Friedeberg, three wood with gold paint, estimate $1,000-1,500,
Stair Galleries (June 3)

“There are many works in the collection with images of ‘hands’. This is a very personal link to Earl who lost a finger in an accident. The collection has many representations of hands and fingers in the form of sculpture, paintings and drawings, many given to Earl as gifts. He was said to have had an amazing sense of humor.”

Explore these items and more in Stair Galleries’ Modern & Contemporary auction on June 3.