Finally, the standoff between Sotheby’s and Christie’s to sell divorced couple Harry and Linda Macklowe’s huge art collection is over.
The winner? Sotheby’s – as announced today in a somewhat ambitious webinar dubbed ‘historic’ in which its staff threw all the superlatives out of the book about the works they will be selling next November and May.
The auction house is due to sell the collection of 65 modern and contemporary works in two stand-alone sales in November 2021 and May 2022. It is estimated at over $600 million, which Sotheby’s says is the highest estimate. highest ever placed on an auction collection. .
Retired at war
Bitter doesn’t begin to describe the ongoing divorce proceedings between Harry and Linda Macklowe, both in their 80s. Linda Macklowe filed for divorce from her husband, a property developer, five years ago, but they couldn’t agree on the value of their massive art collection, amassed over half a century – their valuations differed by up to $30 million.
Thus, in January 2020, New York State Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager appointed Michael Findlay of Acquavella Galleries as receiver to negotiate the sale of the 65 most valuable works in the collection, within three years. Last spring, Findlay decided to postpone the sale when the pandemic hit “due to the current international situation resulting from the Covid-19 virus”, according to a statement given to Artnet last year.
But, this summer, things started up again with Christie’s and Sotheby’s offering to sell it and, according to those familiar with the matter, it all came down to one thing: who would give the biggest guarantee, because that’s part of a divorce . settlement, getting as much money as possible for fundraising is paramount.
During today’s press conference, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, President, Managing Director and Global Head of Business Development for Fine Art at Sotheby’s, said: “we really can’t talk about the process” other than to say that securing the shipment was a “very competitive process”. She confirmed, “We have guaranteed the collection which speaks to the quality of the collection and what we think about it.” Sotheby’s wouldn’t confirm the exact amount of the guarantee, but it’s fair to assume it’s at least $600 million, which would make it one of the largest, if not the largest, guarantees offered in the history of Sotheby’s. (In 2015, Sotheby’s put a $515 million guarantee on the collection of 500 works by its former owner, A. Alfred Taubman – a gamble that didn’t pay off because much of the collection didn’t not been sold.)
The first half of the collection will be sold at Sotheby’s in New York on November 15, with 34 works including those by market favorites such as Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, Agnes Martin, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol .
There are arguably two stars of this first sale, both estimated at over $70 million. First, the chills of Alberto Giacometti The nose (designed in 1949 and cast around 1964), a head (and its Pinocchio-style nose) suspended in a cage, the first of its kind to be offered at auction. « at Giacometti The nose dominates a room like few other sculptures I’ve ever seen,” says Helena Newman, Sotheby’s President, Europe and Global Head of Impressionist and Modern Art. “With its extraordinary combination of references and influences, from surrealism to African sculpture to Jean-Paul Sartre, it encapsulates the aesthetic and intellectual essence of Giacometti’s art.
And second, Mark Rothko’s summary No. 7 (1951), dating from the artist’s key period in the early 1950s and described by Lisa Dennison, President of Sotheby’s, Americas, as embodying “the best of Rothko’s palette, light and mood” . Widely exhibited, the work previously belonged to American collector Sarah Campbell Blaffer.
Other big-budget works include Andy Warhol Nine Marilyn (1962, est. $40–60 million), which does what it says on the tin and is one of 20 serigraphs based on a 1953 publicity photograph of Marilyn Monroe from the film Niagara. Then there’s Cy Twombly’s enormous red poppy-like flower painting Untitled (2007, est. $40m-$60m) and Gerhard Richter’s Romantic Landscape Seestück (1975, is. $25 million to $35 million)
“It was a dogfight,” says artistic adviser Todd Levin The arts journal of the battle to win the consignment between Christie’s and Sotheby’s. “When Amy [Cappellazzo] announced his departure, there was an internal change at Sotheby’s and an external concern that Macklowe’s team felt there might not be anyone with more than three years’ experience in a senior role in the contemporary department in New York with enough expertise to oversee such a large and complex sale.
Levin adds: “When this was announced a few months ago, it felt like there was a reset as [Macklowe’s team] considered this detail, as they require the chosen venue to do anything and everything to crush this shipment. Luckily, Macklowe’s hoard contains artwork that is highly sought after by the market and should largely sell. It may come from a situation that Charles [F. Stewart]as the new CEO, felt he had to win this prize and was willing to pay whatever it took to achieve this goal.
He concludes: “At the end of the day, the initial guarantee was most likely the stopping point. If Charles’ offer has eliminated any concerns or potential issues, Macklowe’s team can rest easy as the guarantee completely removes the risk from their side of the deal.