Rockefeller Collection sold for record-smashing US$832 million

The Rivals, a painting by artist Diego Rivera, is displayed during the sales event of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller at Christie's auction house in New York.
The Rivals, a painting by artist Diego Rivera, is displayed during the sales event of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller at Christie's auction house in New York.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (AFP) - In what was billed as the "sale of the century", the art collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, comprising 1,500 pieces, sold at auction for a record-breaking US$832.5 million (S$1.1 billion), Christie's said on Friday (May 11).

The figure eclipsed the previous record held by the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge which sold for US$484 million in 2009.

Coming after the extraordinary US$450 million sale last November of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," also at Christie's, there had been some speculation that the billion dollar threshold could be crossed by this sale.

Organized over 10 days, including online sales, it nonetheless broke numerous records, testament to the rude health of the global art market.

The collection's crown jewel was auctioned on Tuesday for US$115 million, the sixth most expensive ever sold: Pablo Picasso's "La fillette a la corbeille fleurie," a part of the Rockefeller Collection since 1968.

Claude Monet's "Nympheas en fleurs" fetched US$84.6 million, a new record for the French impressionist master, surpassing a previous high of US$81.4 million.

The auction also saw a record breaking sale for Henri Matisse's "Odalisque couchée aux magnolias," which went for US$80.7 million.

Latin American art meanwhile also hit a new peak with the sale of Diego Rivera's "Los Rivales" for US$9.7 million, a new record for art from the region.

David Rockefeller, the grandson of the legendary magnate John Rockefeller, died last year aged 101, more than 20 years after the death of his wife Peggy.

He had embraced his family's tradition of philanthropy and inherited his taste in art from his mother, who co-founded New York's Museum of Modern Art.

The proceeds will go to a series of nonprofit organizations, including David Rockefeller's alma mater Harvard University, as well as Maine National Park, which was beloved by the family and to which he donated a thousand acres for his 100th birthday.