DALLAS – Aviva Lehmann has been promoted to Heritage Auctions’ Senior Vice President based in New York City, where she will continue to oversee the American Art category she has helped turn into an auction-world juggernaut.
Lehmann is among the most esteemed voices in American art – both as a “power broker,” per Artnet.com, and as a lecturer and professor at New York University. After more than a decade in the auction world, she joined Heritage Auctions in January 2013, where, during her tenure as the auction house’s Director of American Art, she has overseen numerous record-setting events.
“Aviva’s great appreciation and passion for American art makes her one of the art world’s most admired specialists,” says Ed Beardsley, vice president and managing director at Heritage Auctions. “Our clients frequently reach out to tell me how much they love working with Aviva. She knows the history behind all of the great artists’ works, and loves to share them with collectors and consignors alike.”
In 2021 alone, Heritage Auctions proved itself a powerhouse in the category, holding back-to-back near-sellout auctions that resulted in myriad records, among them the highest price – by far – ever realized for a painting by legendary illustrator Joseph Christian Leyendecker. His Beat-up Boy, Football Hero, which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on Nov. 21, 1914, sold in May 2021 for $4.12 million, shattering the previous world record for a work by the influential illustrator.
Indeed, Lehmann has made Heritage Auctions synonymous with illustration art – and, in particular, Norman Rockwell, as evidenced by November 2021’s $4.3 million sale of his beloved Home for Thanksgiving. The Saturday Evening Post cover came to Heritage via the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on behalf of the Eugene M. Connor Post 193 of nearby Winchendon. Proceeds from the sale of Home for Thanksgiving benefitted the American Legion Post, to which the work was long ago donated.
Lehmann was likewise behind May 2017’s $1.33 million sale of Rockwell’s Study for Triple Self Portrait. An early iteration of Rockwell’s most famous cover for The Saturday Evening Post, the work set a new world record for an oil study by the universally adored artist.
Just last November, under Lehmann’s watch, Heritage broke auction records for such artists as Where the Wild Things Are author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and Thomas Hart Benton. She’s also responsible for bringing to market works by such iconic and influential artists as Birger Sandzen, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Motherwell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Helen Frankenthaler, Milton Avery and Robert Henri, to name but a few of the museums’ worth of painters and illustrators Lehmann has shared with Heritage’s collector-clients.
“American art isn’t just my day job, but it’s my life, almost my religion,” says Lehmann. “Our collector-clients are very comfortable buying and selling with us, as we offer them this unique personal experience and perspective, which is: I simply love these works. They’re important. They’re inspirational. They speak to the American condition and the American spirit. They point to our past and guide us toward the future. I am just honored to be one small part of their journey and their story.”
Before joining Heritage, Lehmann served as vice president and specialist in the American Art department at Christie’s, where she was instrumental in establishing dozens of auction records in virtually every category of American Art. While directing their midseason auctions in 2004-2006, she doubled the value of these sales.
Once at Heritage, Lehmann was instrumental in bringing to market some of the finest single-owner collections, including the Judson Ball Collection of Western and Wildlife Art, the Max Ember Collection of Modernism and Design, and the Barry and Maria King Collection of Early American modernism. American Fine Art Magazine called her catalog for the King collection “the new handbook for early American modernism.”
Lehmann will continue to lecture on American art at museums and institutions throughout the country. She currently serves as an adjunct professor of appraisals and valuation in the art administration Master’s program at New York University. When not in the classroom, she can be seen on media outlets ranging from Forbes to Fox News and Bloomberg sharing her passion for some of this country’s most impactful artists and their most identifiable works.
“In a world increasingly focused on bleeding-edge art and intangible keepsakes, I am more committed than ever to elevating American art and artists to the forefront,” Lehmann says. “I am so proud to present these powerful, playful, beautiful and significant works that embody American art, because without them, our culture and our country would be a far less beautiful place.”