The divorcing billionaire and his wife got into a fight. The auction houses are arguing about it. And Monday night, the bidders quarreled.
An impressive part of the collection amassed over five decades by the real estate developer Harry macklowe and his former wife Linda, honorary administrator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, grossed a total of $ 676.1 million, testifying to enduring strength at the top of the art market. Brooke Lampley, an executive at Sotheby’s, called it “the most valuable sole proprietorship auction ever.”
High auction prices were set for Jackson Pollock, including “Number 17, 1951“, From her series Black Paintings, sold for $ 61 million with fees, and for Agnes Martin, whose”Untitled # 44, With thin bands of subtle color, sold for $ 17.7 million.
Among the best prizes of the evening were that of Alberto Giacometti 1964 craggy sculpture “Le Nez” (“Le Nez”), which sold for $ 78.4 million, above the estimate of $ 70 million, and Mark Rothko’s luminous painting “No. 7”, from 1951, which sold for $ 82.5 million with a fee to an unidentifiable Asian bidder. It was the second highest auction price for a work by this abstract expressionist artist and exceeded his low estimate of $ 70 million.
“It’s a strong market,” Eugenio López Alonso, the juice collector and heir, said as he left the sale on Monday. “Top quality always sells.”
The sale, the first of two parts – the second is slated for May – has been closely watched as a test of an art market slowly emerging from the pandemic. Monday night’s treasure was estimated at $ 400 million.
Auctions were looking for a boost, having fallen by 30%, to $ 17.6 billion in 2020 from $ 25.2 billion in 2019, according to the latest Art Market report, published by Art Basel and UBS, bringing the market to its lowest level in a decade.
The Macklowe collection also meant a boost for a market that suffered from a shortage of premium inventory, with demand exceeding supply.
The 35 works on offer Monday night – which ranged from post-war to contemporary times, and all of which sold out – were among the fruits of the Macklowe’s acrimonious divorce proceeding, which resulted in an orderly auction by the court.
The auction was particularly vigorous for lots including “Strong Light” by Philip Guston in its iconic pink tones ($ 24.4 million) and for the vibrant painting by Gerhard Richter “Summary Bild($ 33 million).
Art dealer Andrew Manufacturer said Linda Macklowe was the couple’s main collector and sold her many pieces in Monday’s sale.
“She had an unwavering love for abstraction, but she also had a great sense of figuration,” said Manufacturer. “Each work here is subtle and unique. “
Among the grand prizes was Andy Warhol’s obsessive “Nine Marilyns” in 1962 a metallic serigraphy considered one of his best first serial images. It sold twice – the first time was a bidding error – and eventually reached $ 47.3 million. Cy Twombly’s huge 2007 “Untitled” canvas of dripping red peonies sold for $ 59 million and had the same estimate.
Market trends played out in the auction room, namely large buys from Asia, which accounted for 30 percent of the auction house’s total sales last year.
The Macklowe sale followed a strong exhibition of 21st century works at Christie’s last week, where the market’s growing interest in women artists and artists of color was evident. A colorful summary of 1999 stanley whitney painting attracted five bidders and set a high auction for the artist at $ 1.2 million.
Given the lack of artists of color in Monday’s sale and the scarcity of women – only Agnes Martin and Tauba Auerbach were included – the auction for some symbolized a chapter from the past. “This is the collection of a passing generation – the collection of an old white man,” said Adam Lindemann, the gallery owner and collector. “Yeah, those things will always be great, but is that what a young tech billionaire wants?” I do not think so.
Merchant Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn disagreed. “They can be focused on hot novelty,” she said of young collectors. “But they also want to be part of history.”
Christie’s sale Thursday from the impressionist art collection which belonged to Texas oilman and philanthropist Edwin Cox, who died last year, brought in a total of $ 332 million, out of a high estimate of around $ 268 million; the Getty Museum bought Gustave Caillebotte’s “Young Man at His Window” in 1876 for $ 53 million. (After the sale, a Getty the curator called it a “masterpiece”.)
The wealthy continue to view art as an attractive asset class, and some are also buying in anticipation of President Biden’s proposed tax increases for those earning more than $ 10 million a year.
Thousands of people flocked to get a glimpse of the Macklowe collection – which traveled to Taipei, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, London and Paris before returning to New York – knowing this might be their last chance, at the less for a while, to see prized works of art before they disappear into private hands.
Considering the joy that art has brought to Linda Macklowe for half a century, Manufacturer described the court-ordered auction as a sad conclusion.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said, “that the collection must have been dispersed in this way. “