The Mysterious Art Collection of Late Billionaire Sheldon Solow

After facing years of criticism for its inaccessibility, the six-figure collection is finally opening up to the public—sort of.

When real estate tycoon Sheldon Solow died in 2020 at age 92, he left behind a $4.4 billion fortune, a portfolio of residential and commercial properties and one of the most sought-after collections of 20th-century art. Stacked with Van Goghs, Basquiats and Cezannes, questions quickly began to swirl around the renowned collection’s future.

Shot of gallery with bright pop art of woman on the front wall
Roy Lichtenstein, Girl in a Mirror (1964) © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Henri Matisse, Interior with figure (1947) © 2023 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Jean Dubuffet, Maison de Campagne (1944) © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Jean Dubuffet, Le rédacteur (1951) © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Isamu Noguchi, Idi Amin (1979) © 2023 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Isamu Noguchi, Mantra (1979) © 2023 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Most of the artwork, now owned by Solow’s son Stefan Soloviev, has remained unsold. Soloviev, who uses the original Russian spelling of his family name, became a billionaire in his own right after reorganizing his father’s real estate company into the Soloviev Group. The holding company manages New York real estate holdings and is the parent company of Crossroads Agriculture, the 26th largest landholder in the U.S.

Three men dressed in suit and ties
Sheldon Solow (far left) and Stefan Soloviev (far right) in 2008. Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Soloviev, who has 22 children, owns the Colorado Pacific Railroad and recently entered the bidding for a casino license in Manhattan, has also been busy with his late father’s vast collection. Residing on the ground floor of Manhattan’s 9 West 57th Street and closed to the public for decades, the collection also contains works owned by a non-profit created by Solow and renamed the Soloviev Foundation. Solow was often criticized for reaping the benefits of the collection’s non-profit status while making it inaccessible. But last year, Soloviev revealed that the foundation planned on opening the space as a gallery by the third quarter of 2023.

While Soloviev’s full plan hasn’t yet come to fruition, the foundation has begun offering private tours of the artwork. The free guided tours, offered twice a month in the summer and once a month in the fall for 20 visitors apiece, are currently booked up until November.

Lucky gallery viewers can admire Vincent van Gogh’s warm-toned painting The Stevedores and Alberto Giacometti’s Grande Femme Debout I sculpture, valued at $50 million and $45 million respectively. Both pieces are owned by the Soloviev Foundation, which currently holds 12 pieces from Solow’s collection valued at a total of $250 million, according to its most recent tax filings.

Also listed is a $40 million triptych from Joan Miro and Henri Matisse’s painting Acrobats, valued at $30 million, in addition to pieces from artists like Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly, among others. Meanwhile, the rest of the collection includes countless masterpieces from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and Jean Dubuffet.

Interior shot of gallery, artwork hung on three white walls
Alberto Giacometti, Caroline in a Red Dress (1965) © Succession Alberto Giacometti / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY 2023 Alberto Giacometti, Portrait of Yanaihara (1960-62), © Succession Alberto Giacometti / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY 2023 Henri Matisse, Portrait of Paul Matisse X (1946) © 2023 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Henri Matisse, Autoportrait (1945) © 2023 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Henri Matisse, Acrobats (1952) © 2023 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Fang, Sculptural Element of Reliquary Ensemble: Head (19th Century) Alberto Giacometti, Grande Figure (1947), © Succession Alberto Giacometti / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY 2023 Joan Miró, Portrait of Ramon Sunyer (1918) © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2023 Pablo Picasso, Portrait d'un poète (1941) © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

According to the Soloviev Foundation’s website, the gallery, which often lends its works to art institutions worldwide, is still aiming to open with regular hours at some point in the future. It plans to showcase rotating exhibitions beyond Solow’s collection, in addition to expanding its gallery space, offering masterclasses for emerging artists and sponsoring art competitions for young activists.

“The reason we have opened the collection to the public is social responsibility. It is a wonderful collection that the foundation wanted to share with the public,” said the Soloviev Foundation in a statement to Observer. “At this point, we are working on future plans for expansion of both public viewing opportunities and the space.”

The Mysterious Art Collection of Late Billionaire Sheldon Solow