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Revered Fort Worth Grande Dame’s Worldly Treasures Are Up For Bid

The Force Behind a Legendary Piano Competition Amassed a Lifetime of Unique Finds

BY // 10.31.18

Martha Hyder, who died last year, was a revered social force in Fort Worth who helped take the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition into world renowned status. For decades, the grand dame served as Van Cliburn’s chairwoman and on its board.

She was also world traveler who collected extensively, filling her Fort Worth home with coveted objects spanning centuries and cultures.

Hundreds of decorative arts pieces from Hyder’s vast collection are being sold through Sotheby’s Home, which has online purchase options such as “Buy it Now” and “Make an Offer.” The late doyenne’s prized furniture and art includes rarities such as Oushak rugs, 17th-century tapestries, New Guinea sculpture, and French Regency doors.

A George I gilt-and-red-jappaned bureau bookcase, circa 1720, is part of Hyder’s large collection of Asian artifacts. She was a legendary hostess, and many of her serving and entertaining pieces are offered for sale, such as an 1825 Russian Imperial porcelain plate from the Kremlin Service, period of Nicholas I. Hyder adored Mexico, amassing a collection of 19th-century Mexican folk art that included a pair of carved and painted wood skeletons.

In addition to the sale on Sotheby’s Home, select items in the collection are currently part of an online auction at Sotheby’s that runs through November 8. The bid-only auction features artworks that adorned Hyder’s walls by modern masters such as Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Hans Arp, Georges Braque, and Georges Rouault. It also includes sketches and stage designs, many by Cecil Beaton.

Hyder’s collections and interests were wide-ranging, as were her philanthropies. She devoted her life to the arts and humanitarian causes, locally and internationally. She was vice president and trustee of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., and a member of the International Committee of the New York City Ballet, among many other organizations.

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She was an early and avid supporter of Planned Parenthood and CASA Women’s Clinic and Hospital of San Miguel Allende, Mexico. She was a founding board member of the Sunny von Bulow National Victim Advocacy Center in 1986. The renamed National Center for Victims of Crime is now the nation’s largest nonprofit serving victims and survivors of crime.

Her obituary, published August 17, 2017 in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, described Hyder as a woman with boundless energy and interests, whose life was full of people from all corners of the globe: “Before the creation of the world wide web, Martha Hyder was the ‘human Internet.’

“Her prodigious memory, combined with her walls of organized files and overflowing rolodexes, made her the ultimate resource for reaching out to others to support many critical charitable and civic causes. On any day, one could observe Martha standing over a phone system with five lines lit, cellphone to her ear, taking copious notes and offering her sage guidance and advice, at all hours. Fueled by Hershey Kisses, she chose long nights and early mornings over sleep for the detailed planning and plotting that ensured her every venture’s success.

“Those ventures included the many fabulous parties and benefits she frequently hosted at her home, where it was not unusual to find a visiting musician, author, or scientist of world renown, for whom a stay in Fort Worth would not be complete without time spent at Martha’s.” 

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