Charleston Art Collector Puts Picasso, Other Great Works in Christie’s Auction

In March, Secessionville Manor, a 19th-century estate on James Island, went on the market for the first time in 30 years. In just 17 days, the historic property went under contract and has sold for more than $3.4 million. Andy Jones of William Means Real Estate represented Esther B. Ferguson and United States Trust in the sale of 1687 Fort Lamar Road.

In conjunction with the sale of Secessionville Manor is an auction of original artwork owned by Esther Ferguson, the most recent owner of the manor with her late husband. The Esther B. Ferguson Collection - A Legacy of Art and Patronage will be auctioned by Christie's from May 15 to May 27 in sales from New York to Hong Kong.

Among the most celebrated pieces of artwork is an original Pablo Picasso, “Femme dans un fauteuil,” 1956. Its estimated value is $5 million to $7 million.

Esther Ferguson, a native of Hartsville, S.C., moved to New York City as a young woman where she was a frequent visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her first major acquisition was the Picasso work, followed by paintings, sculpture and works on paper by artists such as Willem de Kooning, Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, Paul Gauguin, Milton Avery and Fernand Leger.

When her husband, the late James Ferguson, retired from his role as chairman and CEO of General Foods Corp. in 1989, the couple relocated to Charleston. Esther Ferguson oversaw the careful restoration of Secessionville Manor. The home is a three-story, wooden frame raised plantation cottage accessible by a private driveway and surrounded by 300-year-old oak trees. It was built in 1820 in the Greek Revival style, likely constructed as a summer home for Rawlins Rivers and his wife, Zephrine A. Holmes, middle-class cotton planters of James Island.

“Not only is Secessionville Manor a spectacular property with historic significance, but Esther Ferguson’s collection of artwork ranks among the finest private collections in the United States,” Jones says. “Art enthusiasts around the world will be eager to add such significant pieces to their own collections.”

The Fergusons were dedicated philanthropists, contributing to the arts and cultural vitality of Charleston and South Carolina. Esther Ferguson is the founder of the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University, has served on the boards of the Charleston Symphony, the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Young Concert Artists and Spoleto Festival USA. She has provided financial support and leadership to the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, as well as the International Piano Series, both at the College of Charleston. She also is a longtime board member of the Gibbes Museum of Art.

William Means is one of the oldest real estate companies in Charleston and an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. The firm sold more than $198 million in Charleston area real estate in 2016, making it one of the company’s most successful years to date.

About William Means Real Estate
Founded in 1933, William Means Real Estate is one of the oldest real estate companies in Charleston. Helen Lyles Geer has been president and broker-in-charge since 1999. In 1997, William Means Real Estate became an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. William Means has an office on Broad Street in downtown Charleston and an office in Mount Pleasant to assist clients in the East Cooper area. For more information, visit