Rockefeller art collection fetches a record £611 million at auction
Paintings from Picasso, Monet and Matisse all went under the hammer.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.