Auction  November 16, 2021  Anna Claire Mauney

The Macklowe Collection Sale Becomes Sotheby’s Most Valuable Ever

courtesy sotheby's.

Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez, Conceived in 1947 (this version conceived in 1949 and cast in 1965). Estimate: $70,000,000 - 90,000,000. Sold: $78,396,000.

On November 15, Sotheby’s hosted the first of two stand-alone auctions of the Macklowe Collection. The results were historic. In total, the sale achieved a landmark $676.1 million, making it the most valuable single-owner auction of all time and the most valuable auction ever held at Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s plans for the Macklowe Collection were first announced at a global livestream back in early September of this year. At this event, Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi said he was, “delighted and proud that Sotheby’s has been chosen to handle the sale.”

courtesy sotheby's.

Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1951. Estimate: $70,000,000 - 90,000,000. Sold: $82,468,500.

Additionally, Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer Charles F. Stewart stated the collection “stands in a league of its own as the greatest collection of Modern and Contemporary Art ever to come to the market.” Stewart also predicted, “the sale will make history as one of the landmark events defining the art market and the history of Sotheby’s over the past 277 years.”

So, while the numbers achieved in this first installment are impressive, they were not necessarily unexpected. Still, as one of the most valuable auctions of all time, these results are worthy of a closer look.

Overall, approximately 70 percent of items featured surpassed the high end of their estimated sale price. Within the auction, two items exceeded $70 million—Mark Rothko’s No. 7 and Alberto Giacometti’s Le Nez. Additionally, four artworks sold for more than $50 million, twelve surpassed $20 million, and twenty exceeded $10 million.

Rothko’s No. 7 achieved the highest price of the day and the second-highest of all time for the artist. After an eight-minute bidding battle, the 1951 artwork went for $82.5 million. And, of course, Giacometti’s sculpture Le Nez followed close behind, achieving $78.4 million.

Courtesy Sotheby's

Jackson Pollock, Number 17, 1951. Estimate: $25,000,000 - 35,000,000. Sold: $61,161,000.

Notably, 80 percent of artworks featured made their auction debut in this sale and four auction records were achieved for Agnes Martin, Jackson Pollock, Robert Irwin, and Michael Heizer.

Two wonderful Warhol pieces—Nine Marilyns and Sixteen Jackies—also performed well, selling for $47.4 and $33.9 million respectively. The latter artwork’s sale price far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $15-20 million.

Courtesy Sotheby's.

Andy Warhol, Sixteen Jackies, 1964. Estimated: $15,000,000 - 20,000,000. Sold: $33,872,250.

In addition to Warhol, the collection featured multiple artworks by Willem de Kooning, Gerhard Richter, Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, and Sigmar Polke. As David Galperin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, Americas, said, “The Macklowe Collection is deep in its passion for certain artists, some of whom were represented more than once in this evening’s sale.”

Courtesy Sotheby's.

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 2007. Estimate: $40,000,000 - 60,000,000. Sold: $58,863,000.

This depth of passion inherent to the collection appears to have been a guiding light for Sotheby’s as plans for this first auction were made. The November 15 sale featured thirty-four artworks that collectively spanned the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As stated by Galperin, several artists were represented by multiple pieces. This multifaceted representation made for a fascinating, career-spanning look at several masters and their evolution over time.

True to the spirit of the Macklowe Collection, the sale invited bidders and the public to take in the last century of art-making as a whole and consider its unified meaning.

Courtesy Sotheby's.

“One of the most powerful conversations in this collection of collections is that around the human condition,” observed Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of the Fine Arts Division, adding, “Giacometti speaks to Warhol, who speak to Koons—those are the conversations that only the greatest of collectors can articulate.”

Sotheby’s second auction of the Macklowe Collection is scheduled for May 2022.

About the Author

Anna Claire Mauney

Anna Claire Mauney is Managing Editor for Art & Object. A writer and artist living in North Carolina, she is interested in illustration, the 18th-century, and viceregal South America. She is also the co-host of An Obsessive Nature, a podcast about writing and pop culture.

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