The billionaire who was divorcing and his wife fought over the matter. It was contested by auction houses. It was contested by auction houses on Monday night.
A significant portion of the collection that Harry Macklowe, a real estate developer, and his ex-wife Linda, a honorary trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, amassed over five decades brought in $676.1 million. This is a testament to the strength of the art market’s top players. Brooke Lampley, a Sotheby’s executive, called it “the most valuable single-owner auction ever staged.”
Auction-high prices were set for Jackson Pollock, whose “Number 17, 1951,” from his Black Paintings series, sold for $61 million with fees, and for Agnes Martin, whose “Untitled #44,” featuring slender bands of subtle color, sold for $17.7 million.
Among the evening’s top lots were Alberto Giacometti’s craggy 1964 sculpture “Le Nez” (“The Nose”), which sold for $78.4 million, above the $70 million estimate, and Mark Rothko’s luminous painting “No. 7,” from 1951, which sold for $82.5 million with fees to an unidentifiable Asian bidder. It was the second highest auction price for an Abstract Expressionist work and far exceeded its $70million low estimate.
“It’s a strong market,” said Eugenio López Alonso, the collector and fruit juice heir, as he was leaving the sale on Monday. “Top quality always sells.”
The sale, the first of two parts — the second one is scheduled for May — was closely watched as a test of an art market that is slowly emerging from the pandemic. Monday night’s trove had been estimated at $400 million.
According to UBS and Art Basel, auction sales have been in decline for the past decade, falling 30 percent to $17.6 Billion in 2020 from $25.2 Billion in 2019. This is the lowest level of auction sales in a decade.
The Macklowe Collection was also a major boost for a market suffering from a shortage in high-quality inventory.
The 35 works offered on Monday evening — which ranged from postwar to contemporary, and which all sold — were among the fruits of the Macklowes’ acrimonious divorce proceedings, which resulted in a court-ordered auction.
The bidding was especially vigorous for lots including Philip Guston’s “Strong Light” in his signature pink tones ($24.4 million), and for Gerhard Richter’s vibrant painting “Abstraktes Bild” ($33 million).
The art dealer Andrew Fabricant said that Linda Macklowe was the main collector in the couple and that he had sold her many of the pieces in Monday’s sale.
“She had an abiding love for abstraction, but she also had a great eye for figuration,” Fabricant said. “Every single work in here is subtle and unique.”
Among the major prizes was Andy Warhol’s haunting 1962 “Nine Marilyns,” a metallic silk-screen considered one of his best early serial images. It sold twice — the first time was a bidding error — and ultimately went for $47.3 million. Cy Twombly’s massive 2007 “Untitled” canvas of dripping red peonies sold for $59 million and had the same estimate.
Trends in the market played out in the salesroom, namely the strong buying from Asia, which accounted for 30 percent of the auction house’s total sales last year.
The Macklowe sale came on the heels of a strong showing of 21st-century works at Christie’s last week, where the market’s growing interest in female artists and artists of color was in evidence. Stanley Whitney’s colorful abstract painting from 1999 attracted five bidders, setting a record auction price of $1.2million.
Given the absence of artists of color in Monday’s sale and the scarcity of women — just Agnes Martin and Tauba Auerbach were included — the auction to some symbolized a chapter from the past. “This is the collection of a generation that’s passing — an old white man’s collection,” said Adam Lindemann, the gallerist and collector. “Yes, these things are always going to be great, but is this what a young tech billionaire wants? I don’t think so.”
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, the dealer, disagreed. “They may be focused on the hot new thing,” she said of young collectors. “But they also want to be part of history.”
Christie’s sale on Thursday of the Impressionist art collection that belonged to the Texas oilman and philanthropist Edwin Cox, who died last year, brought a total of $332 million, over a high estimate of about $268 million; the Getty Museum bought Gustave Caillebotte’s “Jeune homme à sa fenêtre (Young Man at His Window)” from 1876 for $53 million. (After the sale, a Getty 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 on those who earn more than $10 million a year.
Thousands flocked to preview the Macklowe collection — which traveled to Taipei, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, London and Paris before returning to New York — knowing it may be their last chance, at least for a while, to see prized works of art before they disappear into private hands.
Fabricant described the court-ordered auction, given the joy that the art brought Linda Macklowe for half a century, as a sad conclusion.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said, “that the collection had to be dispersed in this fashion.”
Source: NY Times