Barbra Streisand's Love of Fine Things

Barbra Streisand's Love of Fine Things  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

Barbra Streisand had to go right to the top or nowhere at all.  That was her personal philosophy about life and work.  And she did.  Along the way the penny-pinching, Jewish, liberal, Brooklyn native and musical genius plugged lots of people in.

“I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven,” she said.  A study in contrasts. 

Streisand was never someone to take lightly.  She brought the same attention to detail and commitment to excellence seen in her music and films to her living spaces.

The songster once made a $400,000 Tiffany peony lamp the centerpiece of her living room.  The draperies, pillows, rugs, upholstery, throws and even the fresh cut flowers brought in each day matched that lamp.  It took Streisand a year to find just the right gray tassels hanging from a silk rope handrail in her stairway.

Rooms in her art deco seaside sanctuary were decorated in two color ranges: burgundy to pale rose and black to gray.  Even the candy wrappers in the candy dish matched.    Streisand also had the garage reconstructed to match her art deco 1933 burgundy, Dodge convertible roadster and her 1926 Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce.  

Beside music Streisand cultivated the delicate distinction of collecting extraordinary treasures and arranging them gracefully in a room. 

I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven.
— Barbra Streisand

By the time she was done with renovating Streisand was also sick of art deco.

She ultimately sold 535 items from that home at Christie’s, New York on March 3, 1994, for $6.8 million.  Someone pointed out that a number of the art and antiques in the sale sold below estimate.

“My motto is, ‘Be a bull, be a bear, but don’t be a pig,’” she said. 

From art deco Streisand moved on to collecting late-19th and early-20th century American Arts and Crafts.

“I have experienced such delight browsing through the narrow passageways of old antique stores only to find a hidden gem that has been overlooked,” she said.

Her Los Angeles, Holmby Hills home and New York apartment were chock-full of Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dirk van Erp design. Dark oak furniture, Mission sofas, Limbert rockers, Mission bookcases, wall sconces, and wicker floor lamps, the collection was mind-boggling.  

“I've been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive.  I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good,” she said.

Streisand’s life has been all about the details.  One of the things she learned along the way was auctions are a great way to generate cash flow for her foundation which focuses on environmental issues, after-school programs, civil rights and women’s issues among other things.

“As much as I love collecting, I have an even deeper commitment to philanthropy,” she said.

On Oct. 16 & 18, 2009, Julien’s Auctions featured “The Collection of Barbra Streisand” on the block.  All proceeds went to The Streisand Foundation. 

Here are some values for items sold in the sale.

Update: As of March 21, 2019, no major Streisand collection has shown up on the block.

Barbra Streisand

Reverse painted table lamp; Pairpoint; polychrome floral painted shade; three patinated metal supports; black marble base; 28 inches high approximate;  $3,125.

Oil on canvas; “Woman in Lavender Reading a Book,” Elizabeth Baldwin Warn; British 20th century; signed lower right; 53 inches by 61 inches;  $7,625. 

Baby grand piano; Yamaha; matching bench; 1972; 6 feet;  $11,250.

China cabinet; L & J.G. Stickley; two upper doors with 12 panes of glass; over two cabinet doors; catalog number 729; circa 1910;  70 inches by 50 inches;  $15,000.

Table lamp; Dirk van Erp; teardrop-shaped hammered copper base; four-panel mica lined shade; four lights; marked on base with impressed windmill logo; 19 inches high;  $30,000.

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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