Two murals thought lost from the Empire State Building have been found on an antiques and design website.
Winold Reiss, a German-born American artist from the 1920s and 30s, painted eight art deco murals in 1938 to decorate the Longchamps, a restaurant in the ground floor of the still-new Empire State Building. All eight were brightly colored and flirty, featuring stylized nudes surrounded by giant flowers and wild animals. They were discarded in the 1960s when the Longchamps closed. The location is a Starbucks today.
Ken Sims, director at the Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts Gallery in Manhattan, was browsing e-commerce site 1stDibs for design inspiration when he came across a listing for an unattributed pair of giant ‘ambrosial’ murals in oil paint on board, tentatively attributed to Reiss.
“We took a risk and purchased the works without seeing them in person,” Sims told Artnet News. The Buffalo-based dealer, asking an unnamed price around five figures, shipped them downstate. The New York Times said Renate Reiss, Winfold’s daughter-in-law, identified and authenticated the unsigned Temptation and Animation from archival photos, sketches, and expertise.
Looking back at provenance, the two murals were sold unattributed at Sotheby’s about 30 years ago, simply titled together as “Large Oval Abstract Paintings,” and again at a Showplace auction in 2020, to the man who sold them to Sims.
“They are absolutely New York treasures and we would love for them to be accessible to the public,” Sims continued of the works, slated to sell for seven figures a piece. “But there is no question they would be trophies for a private collection.” He hopes their upcoming display at The European Fine Art Foundation in New York helps locate the rest of the series, including Contemplation, Liberation, Anticipation, Fascination, Adoration, and Exultation. But there’s no indication as who how the two murals already found were saved, so no leads on the rest.