Diego Rivera, American Art Hits Record Prices in $106 Million Rockefeller Sale

  • Diego Rivera, The Rivals, 1931, oil on canvas, sold for $9.76 million.

    Diego Rivera, The Rivals, 1931, oil on canvas, sold for $9.76 million.

    Christie's

  • Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Vaughan type), 1795, oil on canvas, sold for $11.6 million, an auction record for the artist.

    Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Vaughan type), 1795, oil on canvas, sold for $11.6 million, an auction record for the artist.

    Christie's

  • Willem de Kooning, Untitled XIX, 1982, oil and charcoal on canvas, sold for $14.3 million.

    Willem de Kooning, Untitled XIX, 1982, oil and charcoal on canvas, sold for $14.3 million.

    Christie's

Bidders went bonkers for The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller on the second night of the sales series at Christie's in New York City's Rockefeller Center. The first two days of Rockefeller sales have totaled over $765 million, with more to go this week and jewelry in June.

Provenance — the Rockefeller name — and a varied selection of 41 top-tier artworks helped push the Art of the Americas Evening Sale to a total of $106,883,500 — the most successful American Art sale in Christie’s history. It followed a $646 million sale the night before that included 7 artist records and a Rose Period Picasso that brought $115 million, the second highest price for the artist.

Some 1,500 Rockefeller-owned items, from tea caddies to a Matisse painting, are drawing both first-time bidders and billionaires to this week's sales, to the benefit of selected charities. 

In the American art sale, a floor bidder (reportedly art dealer Larry Gagosian) and telephone bidders engaged in a 10-minute battle for Willem de Kooning's Untitled XIX, a 1982 abstraction that more than doubled its $6 million low estimate to fetch $12.4 million, the sale's top price. (With buyer's premium $14.3 million).

From Christie's:

The second highest price of the sale came with Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (Vaughan Type), painted in Philadelphia in 1795 — the earliest of his three important portraits of the first President of the United States. Setting a new world auction record for the artist, it was bought for $11,562,500. 

Diego Rivera’s The Rivals  also established a new world auction record for the artist, and in the process became the highest priced Latin American artwork in auction history. Commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in 1931, and later presented as a wedding present to her son David and his wife Peggy, the Mexican artist’s traditional festival scene spent decades hanging in the living room of the couple’s home in Maine. It sold for $9,762,500.

Works commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller were particularly sought after. In addition to the record Rivera, Charles Sheeler’s View of Central Park  realised $1,332,500, and Midtown Range  by Stefan Hirsch, a 1931 painting of the view from the fifth-floor window of the family’s former home on West 54th Street, was bought for $187,500 — an auction record for the artist. 

Further world auction records were set for Charles Sheeler with White Sentinelswhich sold for $2,232,500, eclipsing a record that had stood for 11 years; and for Charles Ephraim Burchfield with June Night (Luna Moth, Tulip Tree by Moonlight), which established a new high at $1,332,500. 

Fairfield Porter’s The Schooner II, a view of Barred Island on the Rockefellers’ beloved Maine coast, realised $1,932,500 to pass the previous mark set in 2004. Another work celebrating the Rockefellers’ love of nature, Shore Birds  by Morris Cole Graves, easily surpassed its high estimate to create a new auction record for the artist at $408,500.

Highlights of an American Art collection described as ‘virtually encyclopaedic’ included Edward Hopper’s Cape Ann Granite, painted in the summer of 1928 ($8,412,500); Georgia O’Keeffe’s Near Abiquiu, New Mexico  ($8,412,500); and Milton Avery’s Woman with Rebozo  ($2,532,500).

In the later stages of the auction there were strong showings for John Singer Sargent’s San Geremia, which achieved $9,087,500; Maurice Brazil Prendergast’s Steps of Santa d’Aracoeli, Rome  ($3,372,500); and Wimslow Homer’s Where are the Boats?  ($4,572,500). 

Also on Wednesday, a decorative arts sale brought $12.36 million, from estimated total of $2.5 million to $3.8 million.

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