Culture / Auctions

Picasso sets a record at Rockefeller’s first auction sale

With Rose Period Picasso topping the list of the treasures, the collection totalled at $646.1 million in the first evening sale.

May 10, 2018 | By Shirley Wang

The opening evening sale of works from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller has attracted much interest internationally, as avid art collectors big eagerly to new world auction records for a number of the most revered artists of the past 150 years.

Gallery assistants with the Picasso painting Young Girl with a Flower Basket, which fetched $115m, the second-highest price at auction for the artist. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Campaigning the list was Picasso’s Young Girl with a Flower Basket, sold for US$115 million, part of the total $646m haul at the first day of the Rockefeller auction.

The Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, from 1905, is the artist’s second highest at auction. Initially sold by Picasso to famed writer Gertrude Stein, who lived in Paris in the early 1900s, this rare piece of art has befriended many famous painters and writers, before it arrived in David Rockefeller’s Manhattan townhouse in 1968 for the subsequent decades.

David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandson of the Standard Oil founder John D Rockefeller when he died in March 2017 at the age of 101, while Peggy passed in 1996. The couple that have married for more than half a century, amassed a celebrated collection of art, furniture, ceramics, statuary and decor, alongside items passed down from previous Rockefeller generations.

Claude Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur sold for $84,687,500 in The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: 19th and 20th Century Art,8 May at Christie’s in New York

Some of the most anticipated works on the auction list, including the Odalisque couchée aux magnolias by Henri Matisse and Nymphéas en fleur from the famed water series by Claude Monet also fetched incredible prices, both setting a new world auction records for the respective artists.

Christie’s employees taking bids. Most of the winner bid by phone or online. Credit: Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The world-class private art collection raised over $646m in New York on Tuesday, with sales were due to continue on Wednesday and Thursday. The 3-day long auction has 1,600-items listed – a once-in-a-generation chance for global collectors to buy some of the most significant artworks still in private hands.

With a rough estimate of around 50 attendees at the bid, 30 or so Christie’s staff operated phone banks for those calling in. A screen at the back of the auction room indicated if the bid came online, along with the geographical origin of the bidder. Unsurprisingly, most of the winning bids came from outside the room.

“This is not just a New York event,” says Jonathan Rendell, Christie’s deputy chairman. “It’s a world event. It is an exceptional sale.”

The auction is estimated to raise US$1bn in total, the first of its kind to do so. All estate proceeds from the sales will benefit selected charities that Peggy and David supported in their lifetime.

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