The $922 million Macklowe Collection replaces the Rockefeller Estate as the most expensive private art treasure in auction history
The collection of divorcees Harry and Linda Macklowe is officially the most expensive private treasure ever sold at auction, fetching $922 million and surpassing the previous total reached by the Rockefeller estate in 2018.
The stunning result came after the second half of the couple’s art treasures fetched $246.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York on Monday, with each of the 30 lots sold. The first release of the Macklowe collection generated $676 million in November, also in a high-end sale.
This batch– which included paintings by Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol and sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti – closely exceeded the estimated range of $167 million to $237 million. (Final prices include auction fees; pre-sale estimates do not.)
The combined total was well over the $835.1 million raised by Peggy and David Rockefeller collection at Christie’s four years ago.
“I’m so happy the paintings have found a new home, it makes me very happy,” Harry Macklowe told Artnet News as he walked out of the auction room and into the drizzly night where an SUV was waiting for him. “I was at the [Burton and Emily Hall] Tremaine auction, I was at the Rockefeller auction, I was at the [Robert and Ethel] Couple auction. I never thought I’d be at Macklowe’s auction as well, but I was and I’m amazed.
The Macklowe collection had been eagerly awaited by the market for years, while ex-spouses battled it out in court and the foreclosure further delayed the auction. The sale was ordered by a judge because the couple could not agree on estimates for the works, which they have collected during their nearly 60 years of marriage. Sotheby’s decided to split the treasure into two seasons to avoid flooding the market with too many major works by the same artists at once.
The finale of the Macklowe saga marked the start of the second week of the mega-auction season, which is expected to total more than $2 billion in sales. Sotheby’s and Phillips take center stage, after Christie’s $1.4 billion haul last week.
The art market looks resilient during this auction cycle even as financial markets turn and crypto plunges. Even the torrential rains of the day did not dampen the evening sale, which went off with efficiency if not a great fireworks display. With 60% of lots pre-sold through irrevocable auction, Sotheby’s minimized its own risk after guaranteeing the collection to warring ex-spouses.
Before kick-off, some wondered if Sotheby’s would be able to maintain momentum after the first sale, which had more expensive hardware and the element of novelty. Although this iteration had less fanfare, “it was a very strong sale”, said London art dealer Harry Blain. “They took a stand and it paid off.”
Yet the changes in taste were palpable, just like last week at Christie’s. The works of former market darling Mark Grotjahn were sold to their guarantors without any competition. Jean Dubuffet’s first nude Large Charcoal Nude (1944) also went to its guarantor for $5.4 million.
The best batch of the night was Mark Rothko is dark and brooding Untitled (1960), which grossed $48 million, in the estimated $35–50 million range. It was purchased in 1983 from the Pace gallery, whose owner, Arne Glimcher, was a friend of the couple.
The auction included two abstract paintings by Willem de Kooning from different periods, both rich in orange tones and each estimated at between $7 million and $10 million. Untitled (1961), also purchased from Pace, sold for $17.8 million, while a later work, Untitled XIII (1984), bought from Anthony d’Offay in 1987, went for $8.9 million.
Andy Warhol’s camouflage self-portrait (1986) was purchased by an Asian client, according to Sotheby’s, for $18.7 million, as part of the pre-sale estimate.
It was a strong night for German art. Gerhard Richter’s Navy, Seestück [Seascape] (1975), grossed $30.2 million, in the estimated $25–35 million range. Two paintings by Sigmar Polke exceeded their high estimates, the Copyist sold for $6.1 million (estimate: $3-4 million) and Plastic-Wannen [Plastic Tubs] for $6.2 million (estimate: $3.5-4.5 million).
Agnès Martin also put in a solid performance. Two paintings by the late American artist also exceeded expectations, led by the subtle blue and yellow early morning happiness (2001), which grossed $9.8 million, more than double its high estimate of $3.5 million. (Martin’s auction record of $17.7 million was set at November’s Macklowe sale.)
The strangest job offered was poppies (1988), a porcelain sculpture of a popular 1980s toy by Jeff Koons, which sold for $3.9 million, nearly double the high estimate of $2 million.
Reflecting on the evening, Brooke Lampley, President of Sotheby’s and Global Head of Sales for Global Fine Art, said: “It was truly a testament to the classics, to the greats.”
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