A dripping "Twisted Christ" sculpture by Salvador Dali.
An Alex Gray painting of a psychedelic Dalai Lama.
An incredibly uncomfortable metal chair made of fence-like material by the influential 20th-century Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata.
These are just a few of the wondrous high-end objects owned by the late Horst Rechelbacher, Aveda Corp. and Intelligent Nutrients founder, that are slated to go on sale Wednesday at 11 a.m. in a timed auction at revereauctions.com. The auction, which includes 333 lots, with five to six items per lot, ends when the bidding stops, likely about 5 or 6 p.m.
Lower-priced objects are on sale now via revereauctions.com and will be available through Aug. 31.
Rechelbacher, known as the "father of safe cosmetics," put plant-based, natural products on the map through Aveda. After he sold the company to Estee Lauder in 1997 for a reported $300 million cash, he started traveling the world and collecting. On his global search for objects for his homes, salons and private estate in Osceola, Wis., Rechelbacher sometimes went directly to the highest-end auction house in Austria. Other times, he'd dip into antique markets in Hong Kong or a random shop in New York's Chinatown and buy everything.
"He loved to buy, but he really loved the hunt, the competitive aspect of buying," said Sean Blanchet, co-founder of St. Paul-based Revere Auctions.
Meandering through Revere Auctions' high-ceilinged warehouse showrooms filled with objects and artwork that Rechelbacher collected during his lifetime is like poking around the attic of an eccentric artist-entrepreneur. Rechelbacher, who died in 2014 of pancreatic cancer at 72, left behind a trove of precious objects.
When a representative from the Rechelbacher estate contacted Blanchet about selling off the items, the auction house owner dove in, spending months sorting through the collection.
A passion for collecting
Rechelbacher's collection runs the gamut, from Old Masters to Surrealist painters. Paintings of angels from the 19th century. An incense holder in the shape of a miniature Chinese bronze dog with pointy ears and a tail that looks like flames. And knives — lots and lots of knives, swords, sword canes and daggers.
Then, there's a mysterious hand-painted wood reliquary that opens into a painting of a nude woman cloaked in a red sheet, standing in the middle of an inverted pentacle inside a circle with a rainbow-patterned perimeter.
"There's all kinds of like mystical stuff like this," Blanchet said. "We've done so much research, but we can't figure out what sect it is from or who made it, but it's so beautifully made."
As Horst collected, the 19th century became one of his passions.
"The lens of travel at the end of the 19th century was like the end of the golden age of fantasy travel," Blanchet said. "People thought of the world in a different way. … There was a lot more adventure, a lot less fear, more curiosity."
Some of the objects, like the Carlo Bugatti Monumental Corner Cabinet (estimated value $10,000-$20,000) with its ebonized wood and panels filled with camels and palm trees, is a classic example of Orientalism. It feels strangely contemporary, because such images still account for Western stereotypes of the Middle East.
The estate runs The Acreage at Osceola, a 360-acre woodland and prairie habitat in Wisconsin dedicated to creating models for sustainable conservation. It also provides a meeting place for creative people who hope to change the world.
Even though Horst died eight years ago, parting with his collection feels monumental.
"It's this realization that you're honoring him by passing things on," his widow Kiran Stordalen said. "Hopefully, people appreciate him as a business person and as an entrepreneur and as an artist, and they'll appreciate a piece of that legacy as well."
As Blanchet has sifted through Horst's collection, Minnesotans have popped out of the woodwork with stories about the visionary entrepreneur.
"Anyone over the age of 40 in Minnesota who got their hair done at a salon ... their hairdresser probably trained at Aveda," Blanchet said.
Beyond just haircuts, people remember Rechelbacher as someone who was driven and focused, wanting to help other people achieve their dreams.
"I've had people say to me, 'Oh, Horst helped me get my business off the ground,' whether it was a restaurant or a taxi cab company," he said. "He loved to see the entrepreneur in everyone around him."
In line with helping others and passing it on, it's also important to detach from material things.
"Objects over time can own you, too," Stordalen said. "One thing that Horst would always talk about in many of his lectures was the importance of letting go, and I think that that is part of the philosophy we're embracing here."