The much-anticipated first Evening sale of the Peggy and David Rockefeller estate posted an dramatic record for a single-owner sale with $646m in sales against an array of art mostly reflecting the Rockefeller's personal tastes after the numerous gifts of other works to various museums but mostly the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
From the moment the sale was announced attention has been split between the art itself (and how it would perform in the marketplace;) the value of the Rockefeller name in an increasingly global art market that often values art differently from previous eras; and, the inside baseball conjecture about the deal Christie's struck and what strategy it would pursue to cover the substantial cost of putting on the sale of the century.
On all three points, the results last night were somewhat different from what seasoned professionals might have expected—and what the chatter running up to the event was predicting. For all of the attention lavished on the sale as an epoch-making event, few participants felt the need to show up at Rockefeller center. The event was well-attended but the bidding mostly took place on the telephone, another reminder that the global art marketplace has changed the nature of even the biggest, most glamorous events.
Even if the sale was a little glamour and drama deficient, it was hardly anything but a huge success. Just think about the gamble that Christie's took six years ago when the deal for the Rockefeller estate was first negotiated. The art market in 2012 had yet to see the updrafts of 2013-15 when nine-figure prices became less of an outlier and more of an objective.
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