Barbara Allen de Kwiatkowski (also known as Barbara Tanner) died earlier this summer of natural causes, leaving behind a legacy of glamour, beauty, and impeccable taste. The Manhattan socialite, who had a list of admirers that included Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty and is also considered Andy Warhol's mot beloved muse, lived a large and luxurious life that became even more public once Warhol's diary entries of the '70s and '80s were published a few years after his death in 1987.
Barbara Tanner was born in Roswell, New Mexico, and grew up in England, as her father was in the military. She spent the latter part of her childhood in Paris and moved to New York to attend Finch College on the Upper East Side.
De Kwiatkowski's journey to the limelight began when she married horse breeder and self-described "newsprint entrepreneur" Joseph Allen in the '70s while she was still in college. Allen soon purchased a 25 percent stake in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine for his wife "to have something to do." She and Warhol became fast friends (which journalist Fran Leibowitz, who was one of their coworkers at the time, recalls as the beginning of the end of her marriage to Allen). The pair became inseparable and could often be found at Studio 54's trendiest occasions, couture's most fabulous fashion shows, and hosting Factory's most notable parties.
Soon after joining Warhol's entourage, Allen started modeling and even dabbled in acting, only accelerating her rise to the forefront of the social scene. Her admirers included Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and celebrated photographer Peter Beard, who notably said of the socialite, “Barbara holds the keys to the other side of the amazingly enormous Warhol story. She was there for all the great statements of Andy’s for years before she cared. She was completely innocent, and she literally saw and heard everything and didn’t give a damn. She had the most naïve and unspoiled eye of any human to enter Manhattan.”
In 1986, Allen remarried Henryk de Kwiatkowski, a Polish aircraft broker and renowned horse breeder 31 years her senior, who she remained with until his death in 2003. She soon became affectionately known as Babs deK and synonymous with style, glamour, and art. De Kwiatkowski seemed to have a penchant for knowing who the next great of the art world would be and amassed a truly unique collection of works. She was also known for her fabulous taste in attire and interiors and hired the legendary Babs and Sister Parish, of Parish-Hadley Associates, to design the couple's fabulous 1 Beekman Place apartment overlooking the East River, which she kept until 2019.
This marriage only further positioned her as an aspirational figure, and de Kwiatkowski inherited her husband's royal friendships, an array of vacation homes, and six stepchildren, with whom she was never close. Those relationships became even more strained upon the publishing of The Andy Warhol Diaries in 1989, which notes 73 mentions of his escapades with the socialite. While her stepchildren were horrified by Warhol's accounts, her husband was not, and she told Observer in 2017 that much of Warhol's journal entries were exaggerated.
Nearly six months after her death, Christie's has announced The Collection of Barbara Allen de Kwiatkowski will be auctioned over eight sales in the coming months, the first in-person auction beginning with Post-War & Contemporary Art on December 3 in New York and Old Master Paintings & Sculpture Online from November 13 to December 4.
More than 60 lots of her highly curated art and jewelry collections are sure to be highly coveted items in the upcoming collections. Some of the most notable works of art include a 1973 silkscreen by Andy Warhol of Mao and an extremely rare portrait sketch of the socialite from 1976. Furniture by Diego Giacometti, vases by Jean Dunand, and iconic jewels spanning designs by Belperron, Harry Winston, JAR, and Verdura are also anticipated items from her collection available for auction in the coming weeks and months.
"Her personal taste in jewels gravitated toward the bold and brilliant, featuring remarkable gemstones including sapphires, emeralds, and jade that pair with the vibrant colors of Pop Art complemented by an impressive and classic 10.59-carat D color, potentially Internally Flawless diamond originally purchased at Winston,” says Daphne Lingon, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas.
De Kwiatowski's collection will also be featured in Impressionist and Modern Art on December 4, Magnificent Jewels on December 8, Jewels Online from November 18 to December 1, Design on December 11, and the 2021 sales of The Collector on April 8 and Prints & Multiples on April 21.
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