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Saturday 21 September 2019

Rockefeller art collection fetches a record £611 million at auction

Paintings from Picasso, Monet and Matisse all went under the hammer.

Global president of Christie’s Jussi Pylkkanen taps the gavel on the podium for the final sale of Henri Matisse’s “Odalisque couchee aux magnolias” (Julie Jacobson/AP)
Global president of Christie’s Jussi Pylkkanen taps the gavel on the podium for the final sale of Henri Matisse’s “Odalisque couchee aux magnolias” (Julie Jacobson/AP)

By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press

Peggy and David Rockefeller’s lavish artworks and other treasures have set a new world record at a Christie’s auction as the priciest ever single-owner collection.

Topping 800 million dollars (£590 million), the collection went for about twice the previous record of 484 million dollars (£357 million) from a 2009 Paris sale of designer Yves Saint Laurent’s estate.

The three-day live sale of the late couple’s belongings ended Thursday with a 115 million dollar (£85 million) star lot — a Picasso painting called Fillette a la corbeille fleurie which once belonged to the writer Gertrude Stein, estimated to be worth 100 million dollars (£74 million).

Claude Monet’s La Seine a Lavacourt was one of the lots (Julie Jacobson/AP)

The runner-up, at 84 million dollars (£62 million), was a Monet canvas with his famed water lilies, Nimpheas en fleur, which surpassed its 50 million dollar (£37 million) estimate and set a record for his art at auction against a previous high of 81 million dollars (£60 million).

Matisse’s Odalisque Couchee aux Magnolias — depicting a woman in a Turkish harem — sold for 80.8 million dollars (£59.7 million), topping the 70 million dollar (£51.7 million) estimate and setting a new record for a Matisse, whose highest price at auction had been 48.8 million dollars (£36.3 million).

In what one art publication dubbed “Rockefeller Mania,” Christie’s said 100% of the 893 Rockefeller lots offered live had sold, for a total of 828 million dollars (£611 million), and more than 600 lots sold online for 4.6 million dollars (£3.4 million).

Global president of Christie’s Jussi Pylkkanen guides the bidding for Pablo Picasso’s “Fillette a la corbeille fleurie” which sold for $102 million (Julie Jacobson/AP)

Diego Rivera’s 1931 The Rivals went for the highest price ever paid for a Latin American artwork on the block — 9.8 million dollars (£7.2 million) against a pre-auction estimate of 5 million (£3.7 million to 7 million dollars (£5.2 million).

The sale was not over till the online-only bids were in on Friday.

Anyone with a few hundred dollars could go for a piece of the opulence that surrounded the late Rockefeller couple —with items including cufflinks or jewellery.

Bidding representatives take bids from buyers during an auction from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller (Julie Jacobson/AP)

A 14-carat gold money clip once filled with Rockefeller cash sold for 75,000 dollars (£55,000) against an estimate of 800 (£600) to 1,200 dollars (£880).

The total 1,564 Rockefeller lots reflected the couple’s eclectic tastes in everything from fine furniture, porcelain and ceramics to duck decoys and blue-chip art that graced their various properties and David’s bank office.

Paintings filled the walls of their Maine home, their Manhattan townhouse and a country mansion in the Pocantino Hills north of the city, complete with horses and cows.

For a whiff of that life, buyers were willing to pay prices way above the pre-auction estimates.

Bidding representatives motion for a bid on Armand Seguin’s Les delices de la vie (Julie Jacobson/AP)

A rare Chinese blue and white “dragon” bowl from the Maine kitchen cabinet, valued at up to 150,000 dollars (£111,000), went for 2.7 million dollars (£2 million), while bidding on a bronze figure of the Buddhist deity Amitayus reached 2.5 million dollars (£1.85 million), against a 600,000 dollar (£440,000) estimate.

A 256-piece Sevres dessert service commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for 1.8 million dollars (£1.3 million) — more than six times its high estimate.

Six George III “Gothick” Windsor Armchairs sold for 336,500 dollars (£250,000) against a top estimate of 80,000 dollars (£60,000), and an English wicker picnic hamper soared to 212,500 dollars (£155,000), against a high estimate of 10,000 dollars (£7,500).

All prices include buyers’ premiums. Christie’s bolstered the auction by guaranteeing the whole Rockefeller collection, not disclosing the minimum price at which a work would have to sell or buyers’ names.

Many came from abroad, drawn to the New York power name that dominated the city’s privileged, philanthropic society for a century.

Peggy died in 1996, and David in 2017, as the last surviving grandson of the oil baron John D Rockefeller.

The couple’s son, David Rockefeller Junior, said auction proceeds would go to charity.

The collection ended up, appropriately, in Rockefeller Center off Fifth Avenue where Christie’s is located.

John D Rockefeller Junior had helped finance and build the grand complex in the 1930s.

PA Media

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