Not only has it smashed the record for the most valuable single-owner collection ever sold, but the Rockefeller collection has seen the likes of Monet and Matisse raise their benchmarks too.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on May 10, 2018

The art collection of late oil heir David Rockefeller (grandson of America’s first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller) and wife Peggy is smashing auction records.

Christie’s in New York is selling off the personal collection of art, furniture, ceramics, statuary and decor, over three days.

But it only took the first night and 44 lots for the auction to break the record for the most valuable single-owner collection ever sold.

Paintings from some of history’s most eminent artists went under the hammer at the Manhattan auction, and the collection fetched nearly $650 million.

It easily eclipsed the previous benchmark of $484 million set in Paris in 2009, with the sale of Yves Saint Laurent and long-time partner Pierre Bergé’s collection.

Artist records fall through Rockefeller auction

Records were also set for seven artists including Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.

Monet’s ‘Nymphéas en fleur’ (Water Lilies in Bloom) — completed between 1914-17 — created a bidding war, described by auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen as “a tennis game with five rackets”.

Eventually an undisclosed buyer won out with a bid of $75,000,000. It edged past Monet’s previous auction record of $81.4 million, because the buyer premium meant the total price was $84.7 million.

“To have on the same night records for two of the geniuses of painting, Matisse and Monet, is something that I never imagined would happen,” Pylkkanen said.

The undisputed centrepiece of the auction was Pablo Picasso’s ‘Fillette à la corbeille fleurie’ (Young Girl with a Flower Basket), a nude portrait of a pubescent girl known only as Linda.

While the canvas didn’t come close to the record $179.4 million his ‘Les Femmes d’Alger’ demanded in 2015, it was still Picasso’s second most expensive auction sale, and topped the Rockefeller Collection with an eye-watering price-tag of $115 million (after the premium is taken into account).

Of the other lots, the ‘Marly Rouge’ porcelain dessert set Napoleon took with him into exile on the island of Elba sold for a staggering $1.8 million, more than seven times higher than the estimated range.

Rockefeller passed away in March 2017 at the age of 101, and his wife of 50 years died in 1996.

All of the proceeds from the auction will go to charities supported by the family.

“It is challenging to express in words the many emotions our family is feeling as we celebrate the opening night of this sale week devoted to The Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection,” said the couple’s son, David Rockefeller, Jr. “Chief among them is pride and gratitude.”