Van Cliburn Collection Up for Sale

Pianist's collection expected to bring in $3 million

Internationally known pianist Van Cliburn will give the public a glimpse of his personal life when Christie's auctions more than 150 pieces he collected through the years.

"There's some other things I was wanting to do, and I said, 'This will give me the opportunity to do it,'" Cliburn told NBC 5 in an exclusive interview. "And while I feel young, it's always nice to be thinking of tomorrow."

The past sealed Cliburn's place in history. He was a 23-year-old, fresh-faced, wavy-haired kid from Texas in 1958 when he claimed victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Time magazine put on the him on the cover that year and called him "The Texan Who Conquered Russia." World-wide fame and full concert houses followed. At 77, he is still a darling in the classical music world.

"I mean, after all, he is one of the biggest classical musicians of the 20th and 21st century," said Capera Ryan, vice president and the head of Christie's for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. "His passionate pursuit for music as well as collecting these objects is really unbelievable."

Ryan worked with Cliburn and helped him choose the items from his house in Fort Worth that will be auctioned at Christie's New York on May 17.

Russian art, silver, English furniture and jewels are among the pieces expected to bring in excess of $3 million.

"It ranges from pieces he collected throughout the world," Ryan said. "Van has touched so many souls from Moscow to New York to Texas, so it's an extremely exciting opportunity for Christie's to help him sell these pieces."

"From the beginning of my concert life, I would spend my earnings from performances searching for something beautiful of timeless quality to remember different concerts in various cities," said Cliburn. "I have always found throughout my life that beauty raises your consciousness and provides incalculable inspiration. I hope that some of the beauty that has inspired me for decades will find others who appreciate them as much as I always have."

"We hope that everyone will get their paddles up and bid," Ryan said.

Van Cliburn Collection Auction
Christie's New York
May 17, 2012

CORRECTION: We originally published that Cliburn claimed victory in 1953 at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Cliburn won at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958.

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