It takes courage to hold a celebrity yard sale. Just ask Barbra Streisand.
This weekend at Christie's auction house in New York, connoisseurs and voyeurs alike will be able to inspect the Arts and Crafts furnishings that filled her house near Beverly Hills, Calif., end table to end table.
That's not all. On Monday, while her collecting passion is offered to bidders as a glamour sale of the season, the star's excess stuff goes on view at Christie's East.
The catalogue salutes "Memories . . . The Personal Property of Barbra Streisand." On Thursday, someone will be able to walk off with her domed hair dryer and chair, estimated at $1,000-$1,500. Along with jewelry, pottery and the contents of her art deco basement screening room, the diva is offering fashions from her closet, from Donna Karans in size 6 to an Armani in Euro-size 44.
She's also selling her white-and-silver mobile home--a 1987 Ford Econoline outfitted with a six-disc CD changer, two cell phones, television, VCR, fridge, microwave, furnace and air conditioning. It is estimated at $10,000-$15,000. She used it as an office.
Serious Arts and Crafts collectors have been studying the primary catalogue, "The Barbra Streisand Collection." Several pieces of American decorative arts history are offered, including a 1902 sideboard by Gustav Stickley, a leading figure in the American Arts and Crafts movement, which flourished at the turn of the century. Made for his own dining room in Syracuse, N.Y., it is considered the highlight of the Monday sale and carries an estimate of $300,000-$500,000. Two oak corner cabinets made for the Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, N.J., which Stickley used as his home toward the end of his career, carry estimates of $40,000-$60,000 each. Now their provenance will include a place in Streisand's rooms, too.
"It's the provenance that makes it important--like the Marilyn Monroe sale," according to David Revere McFadden, chief curator of the American Craft Museum in New York. He said he planned to view the collection but not bid on it, citing a lack of acquisition funds at year's end.
McFadden calls Stickley one of the "unsung heroes" of an artistic movement that was itself "an affirmation of American ingenuity and artistic creativity."
Streisand bought the sideboard from Christie's in 1988 at a sale that is credited with reviving the market for the Arts and Crafts style. She paid what was then a landmark price of $362,000, including premiums. The corner cabinets came from Christie's a year later.
"I did not anticipate we would see them back again 10 years-plus later," says Nancy McClelland, Christie's 20th-century decorative arts specialist. "Understandably, we are thrilled."
Christie's has not shied from trumpeting the star to promote the goods: "No other living legend . . . has consistently maintained the highest standard of excellence--from recording an album and directing a movie to amassing a world-class collection of 20th-century decorative art and design and transforming her homes into dazzling interiors. "
Even as a short-term collector, Streisand was acquisitive, turning the main rooms of her house into period set pieces. According to her publicist, she did not have a decorator but was "a very educated collector." In addition to Stickley, she bought pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Louis Comfort Tiffany, William Grueby and Dirk van Erp.
The Streisand name has held its own at auction. In 1994 Christie's sold her previous collections of art nouveau and art deco. The $5.7 million sale exceeded estimates by more than $1.5 million. At the time, Streisand was emptying her Malibu guest house. This year she sold her home in Holmby Hills, prompting the liquidation of her Arts and Crafts collection, according to McClelland. Streisand's current home, in Malibu, is done in American 18th-century and 19th-century styles. Since 1987, she has "turned her vision over to almost all American" tastes, says McClelland.
McFadden counts on two hands the number of top private Arts and Crafts collectors. "Like Streisand, most were smart enough to start collecting early," he says.
For those who want to be in on the next wave, he notes a new fascination with Streisand's earlier passion, art nouveau. After that, "I suspect there will be a flurry of interest in heroic modernism," he suggests.
Look for anything by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe before the Whitney Museum's big "Mies in America" show opens next September. Or start your own trend at a yard sale near you.
"Once you work for a museum long enough, you become accustomed to these cyclical trends," McFadden noted. "Every 12 to 14 years, what goes around comes around."
CAPTION: Barbra Streisand's 1902 Gustav Stickley sideboard, used by the designer in his Syracuse, N.Y., home.
CAPTION: One of the Arts and Crafts rooms in Streisand's former home near Beverly Hills, Calif. The furnishings will be sold at auction next week.