The first Rockefeller auction at Christies took place on Monday focusing on 19th and 20th century art. While the bidding and atmosphere was almost slightly subdued, the sum raised was not; the auction set numerous artist records and became the most valuable estate ever sold at auction. The sale totalled £476million with all proceeds going to a selection of charities chosen by Peggy and David Rockefeller as the beneficiaries of their Estate. Pablo Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie which was the top lot of the night, selling for £115,000,000, while new auction records were set for Claude Monet (£62,407,885), Henri Matisse (£59,506,264) and Eugène Delacroix (£7,277,082) amongst others.
The auction continues this week. On Tuesday evening, the auction of Art of the Americas totalled £79.1 million and the top lot was Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XIX, which used to hang in David Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan office and which sold for $14.2 million. Another highlight was Diego Rivera’s The Rivals which set a record price for the artist, realising £7.2 million.
Amongst the big-ticket items in the collection, some other objects caught our eye including 22 pieces of the ‘Marly Rouge’ Sèvres porcelain 256-piece dessert service made for Napoleon I (circa 1807-09), to which he was so attached that in 1814, he insisted on taking it into exile with him to the island of Elba. The service is decorated with finely painted butterflies and insects which would have appealed to David Rockefeller who was passionate about insects and became so prominent in that field that a rare beetle discovered in Mexico was named after him. It was offered last night and smashed its pre-sale estimate of $150,000-250,000, selling for $1,812,500.
Whilst the sales have kicked off with a bang, there are plenty more chances this week to buy a piece of the Rockefeller Collection, including American and Asian Art, English and European decorative art; and Chinese, Japanese, Korean and European porcelain. More accessible objects are available through online sales, although prices are already climbing; the Rockefeller money clip which was estimated at $800 to $1,200, sold for $75,000. There are two more online sales to come.
Next week the New York season continues with the spring auctions of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art.