COLLECTION OF ETHNOGRAPHIC ART INSPIRED BY FASHION COUPLE’S WORLDWIDE JOURNEYS
At the height of their success, Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg retired from the fashion business to focus on environmental and wildlife conservation issues. The couple’s journeys took them to Africa, inspiring their interest in collecting ethnographic art.
Heritage Auctions is offering more than 30 lots of Tribal and American Indian art from the Estate of Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg in its July sale of ethnographic art.
“It is clear that these art works were collected with a keen eye for art and design as well as a passion for the people and places from which they hail,” says Delia E. Sullivan, director of the Ethnographic Art Department at Heritage Auctions.
The pieces being offered reflect their years of exploration and love of tribal art,” Sullivan says. “It was while traveling on safari in 1987 that Liz and Art learned of the plight of the African elephant, which literally redirected them from the fashion world to the fight to save wildlife.”
Their second career – the mission to save wildlife – was a cause they would remain dedicated to for the rest of their lives.
Claiborne passed away in 2007, Ortenberg in 2014. They started Liz Claiborne Inc. with a partner in 1976. The company grossed $2.6 million in its first year, and went public in 1981. Five years later, the business became the first company founded and headed by a woman to be ranked on the Fortune 500.
When they retired in 1990, Liz Claiborne Inc. was the largest women’s apparel maker in the country, with $1.4 billion in sales.