Rockefeller Collection Nets Highest Ever Total for a Single-Owner Art Auction

Henri Matisse 'odalisque couchee aux magnolias' sold for $80 million.
Henri Matisse 'odalisque couchee aux magnolias' sold for $80 million.
  • Rockefeller Center money clip sold for $75,000.

    Rockefeller Center money clip sold for $75,000.


After a six-month campaign, 10 days of online sales and three days of dynamic live auctions at Christie’s Rockefeller Center HQ, the total for the 1,500 objects comprising The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller  reached $832,573,469/ £613,941,113, well exceeding initial expectations and establishing the highest auction total ever for a private collection at auction — nearly doubling the previous record held by the Collection of Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé, which totaled $443 million.

All of the Estate’s proceeds from the most significant charitable auction in history will be directed to a dozen philanthropies Peggy and David Rockefeller supported during their lifetimes.

In a statement, David Rockefeller, Jr. said: ‘This week of auctions has exceeded our expectations in so many ways. Christie’s and our family had a shared financial goal of raising more than $500 million in estate proceeds for the 12 philanthropies our parents cared about so deeply, and it has been both humbling and deeply gratifying to see a sale total that reaches so far beyond that. These funds will provide very meaningful support to important institutions and foundations devoted to scientific research and higher education, support for the arts, foreign policy, and the conservation of coastal and agricultural lands.

The top prices of the series included Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, which realised $115,000,000; Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur, which sold for a record $84,687,500, and Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, which was bought for $80,750,000, another artist auction record. 

Throughout the live auctions there were 22 notable records across Impressionist & Modern Art, American painting, Latin American art, contemporary sculpture, decorative art, Islamic painting, Chinese Works of Art, and American Decorative art. 

In addition to Monet and Matisse, artist world auction records were set for Diego Rivera (The Rivals, $9,762,500, which also established a record for a work of Latin American Art), Eugène DelacroixJean-Baptiste-Camille CorotArmand SeguinGiorgio MorandiOdilon Redon, Gilbert StuartCharles SheelerCharles Ephraim BurchfieldFairfield PorterStefan HirschMorris Cole GravesElizabeth Strong-Cuevas and Saliba Douaihy.

The Sèvres porcelain ‘Marly Rouge’ service commissioned by Napoleon I broke the world auction record for 19th-century porcelain, selling for $1,812,500 in English & European Furniture, Ceramics and Decorations Part I. A large, Qianlong-period Chinese Export ‘Tobacco Leaf’ dinner service set a new auction record for a dinner service when it realised $1,152,500.

On 12 June, an additional 19 lots of jewellery from the collection will be offered in the Magnificent Jewels  sale in New York. 

On the final day of live auctions, the Fine Art Day Sale  achieved $43,041,250 / £31,717,944. The top lot was Henry Moore’s Oval Sculpture, which sold for $3,972,500 against a high estimate of $500,000.

English and European Furniture, Ceramics and Decorations, Part II  totalled $7,980,750 / £5,881,172, with the top price being achieved for a set of six George III ‘Gothick’ Windsor armchairs, which sold for $336,500 against a high estimate of $80,000. Other top performing lots were the Chelsea Porcelain plaice tureens, which realised $300,000, and an English wicker picnic hamper from Asprey & Company that soared past its high estimate of $10,000 before selling for $212,500.

In the Travel and Americana  sale, the top lot was a rare blue and white ‘Dragon’ bowl, which was acquired for $2,772,500. An Imperial gilt-bronze figure of Amitayus sold for $2,532,500, while David Rockefeller’s collection of duck decoys proved to be extremely popular, with the John Haynes Williams Whistling Swan decoy being the top performer at $348,500. The total for the auction was $11,636,375 / £8,575,074.

Christie’s welcomed 30,000 visitors to its landmark exhibition of the collection at Rockefeller Center, which was designed as an immersive walk-through experience. Prior to New York, the global tour of collection highlights, presented in partnership with VistaJet, visited Hong Kong, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai, bringing the Rockefeller’s treasured art and objects to a further 50,000 people. 

Including the online sale, sale registrants came from 53 countries. In 2018, Rockefeller content on the Christie’s website has generated over 2.4 million page views, with more than 70 bespoke web features created to explore the many narratives of the collection. Coverage on social media channels produced more than 11,000 new followers since late October 2017, with over 450 dedicated posts on Instagram alone.

The buyer geography of the sales was led by the Americas (73 per cent), followed by Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India (18 per cent combined), and Asia (10 per cent). New buyers in the sales accounted for 10 per cent of the buyers in the decorative arts live sales, and 61 per cent of the buyers in the online sale, with 28 per cent of clients buying more than one lot online.

The many personal items on offer in the online sale included a money clip with the outline of the Rockefeller Center, which was offered at $800-1,000 and finally sold against 13 bidders for $75,000. The final total for the online sale was $4,536,500/ £3,354,055.


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