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Christie’s Rockefeller auction had a record-breaking first night

posted onMay 9, 2018

The legendary art collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller was put up for sale by Christie's in Manhattan on Tuesday. The collection is comprised of more than 1,500 pieces collected throughout David and Peggy's lifetime, as well as items they inherited from previous generations.

Highlights from the first evening of a three-day auction, which brought in more than $646 million, included "Young Girl with a Flower Basket," by Pablo Picasso, that sold for $115 million (including fees), one of the highest sums paid at auction for a work by the artist. 

A painting by Claude Monet's "Water Lilies in Bloom," inspired by his home in Giverny  and completed between 1914 and 1917, sold for a record $84.6 million while Henri Matisse's "Odalisque reclining with magnolias" painted in Nice, France, in 1923 was sold to Xin Li Cohen, deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia, on behalf of a client, for $80.7 million. It was the highest price for Matisse after his previous $48.8 million auction record. Christie’s hailed it as “the most important work by the artist to be offered on the market in a generation.”

Paul Gauguin's seascape, "The Wave" painted in 1888 in Brittany, brought in $35.2 million, almost twice the estimated $18 million. A four-panel group “Les delices de la vie" by Armand Seguin soared to $7.7 million from the starting bid of $800,000. Georges Seurat’s "La Rade de Grandcamp" went for $34 million to Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston while Joan Miró’s "Mural I, Mural II, Mural III" sold for $20 million. 


Other individual artworks sold Tuesday garnered record prices for several painters. The evening’s total far surpassed the record for single session, single owner sale, previously held by the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s auction, which fetched $484 million in 2009.The most lucrative single auction sale, however, still stands at $852.8 million, a record held by Christie’s New York in its November 2014 postwar and contemporary art sale.

Five more live auctions from the estate will take place this week, focusing on furniture, ceramics and decorations, as well as an online sale that runs through May 11, offering personal mementoes, lamps and lighting and tableware. The auction Wednesday will shift to American art, inlcuding works from Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent. Many predict the total estate proceeds from the multi-day auction could exceed $1bn, which would represent a record.

“You can’t calculate it,” Jonathan Rendell, Christie’s deputy chairman, told Bloomberg. “The Rockefellers are almost American royalty.” 

The proceeds of the sale will benefit 12  philanthropies the Rockefellers supported in their lifetimes, including the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Harvard University, MoMA, and the Council on Foreign Relations

“Eventually all these objects that have brought so much pleasure to Peggy and me will go out into the world and will again be available to other caretakers who, hopefully, will derive some satisfaction and joy from them as we have,” David Rockefeller told Christie's in a statement before his death. 

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