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Installation view of "The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller" exhibition on view in Rockefeller Center before going to auction
Installation view of "The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller" exhibition on view in Rockefeller Center before going to auction | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018.
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The Rockefeller Auction Establishes a Historic New Record

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 17 May 2018
The art world waited with bated breath as Christie’s brought the hammer down on six live auctions and an online sale of the late David and Peggy Rockefeller’s unparalleled collection. Estimated to amass at least $500 million, The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller is officially and, unsurprisingly, record-breaking.

Billed as “the most significant charity auction ever staged,” The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller was slated to potentially soar amid the mind-bending heights of a $1 billion total. While it fell slightly short of this colossal approximate, the collective sales raked in $832.6 million—nearly doubling the previous record set for a single auction.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Fillette à la corbeille fleurie,’ 1905.
Pablo Picasso, ‘Fillette à la corbeille fleurie,’ 1905. | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018

“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,” the auction house reported.

Henri Matisse, ‘Odalisque couchée aux magnolias,’ 1923.
Henri Matisse, ‘Odalisque couchée aux magnolias,’ 1923. | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018

According to Christie’s, the live auctions set a total of 22 “notable records.” As expected, the top highlights included Pablo Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (sold for $115 million); Claude Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur (sold for $84.69 million); and Henri Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (sold for $80.75 million), which set a new record for the artist at auction. Diego Rivera’s The Rivals, sold for $9,762,500, also established a new record for a Latin American artwork.

Diego Rivera, ‘The Rivals,’ 1931.
Diego Rivera, ‘The Rivals,’ 1931. | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018

In addition, a porcelain serving set commissioned by Napoleon I set a new record for 19th-century porcelain (sold for $1,812,500); while a Qianlong-period Chinese dining set achieved a new auction record upon selling for $1,152,500. Henry Moore’s Oval Sculpture dwarfed its $500,000 estimate when it sold for nearly $4 million; a set of six George III armchairs fetched more than four times their $80,000 estimate when they realized $336,500; and David Rockefeller’s prized swan decoy reached $348,500.

John Haynes Williams, “Whistling Swan” (c. 1910)
John Haynes Williams, “Whistling Swan” (c. 1910) | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018.

“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,” David Rockefeller Jr. said in a statement. “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.”

A set of six George III yew and elm “Gothick” Windsor arm chairs. Mid-18th century.
A set of six George III yew and elm “Gothick” Windsor arm chairs. Mid-18th century. | © Christie's Images Ltd. 2018.

Before the sales even began, Christie’s reportedly welcomed some 30,000 visitors to the New York City exhibition of the Rockefeller collection, which went on view ahead of the landmark series of auctions. “This was an innovative and creative campaign, one that saw new engagement with influential tastemakers, the sharing of powerful stories across our content and digital platforms,” Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said in a press release.

On June 12, 2018, 19 lots of Rockefeller jewelry will be offered in Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York.