New York art auction season set to sizzle with Rockefeller collection

Christie's presents the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, in New York, on April 27, 2018.
Christie's presents the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, in New York, on April 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Six months after selling a Leonardo da Vinci for half a billion dollars, New York art auction season is back, gearing up to break new records with a magnificent Rockefeller collection and a Modigliani.

The collection was amassed by the late billionaire banker David Rockefeller, who died last year aged 101, and his wife Peggy.

In all, Christie's is selling 1,600 items over three days, with an expected take of US$600 million (S$800 million). The proceeds are going to charity.

The jewel in this collection's crown is Picasso's 1905 masterpiece Fillette a la corbeille fleurie, valued at US$100 million.

For the first time, Christie's this year will spread its spring sales over two weeks, twice the traditional length, kicking things off on Tuesday.

This comes after Christie's sold da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, a 500-year-old depiction of Jesus Christ, for US$450.3 million in November, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

"After the Leonardo, I went through three weeks of a bit of a lowdown. But then you get excited by new projects," said Mr Loic Gouzer, co-chairman for postwar and contemporary art at Christie's.

"Not only is the Rockefeller sale the biggest sale we've ever had at Christie's but the Impressionist and modern sale is also the biggest one ever," he told AFP.

"It's probably going to be the biggest season Christie's has ever had."

The highlight of the second week is Sotheby's May 14 sale of a stunning nude by Amedeo Modigliani, expected to fetch more than US$150 million.

Another of the Italian's nudes sold for US$170.4 million in 2015, currently the third most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.