The New York Times spends a great deal of time and energy complaining about the use of art as an asset. So it is a bit of surprise to see their art market columnist sum up the Rockefeller estate sale by complaining that Peggy and David Rockefeller, who bought widely across a number of categories ranging from duck decoys to Asian art and American art of many eras, were insufficiently investment minded.
Although their taste in art never advanced beyond Abstract Expressionism and, it is important to remember that the sale does not include the many works the Rockefellers donated to museums (a virtue the New York Times is very vocal about,) David Rockefeller commissioned work from Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti for One Chase Manhattan Plaza. One of the works that began as part of that commission was defining moment in the art market when it sold for a record price in 2010. Earlier, David Rockefeller’s Rothko kicked off an upward explosion of the Rothko market before and after the global financial crisis.
Finally, it is often forgotten that the David Rockefeller was the beneficiary of a great fortune but not the possessor of it. That objects he bought to decorate his homes and satisfy his collecting passion should yield more than $830m for charity is an accidental investment achievement to be marveled at.
Yet here’s how the NYTimes characterizes it:
“The collection overall is very dowdy, very end of an era,” said Wendy Cromwell, an art adviser based in New York. […]
During the early 1950s, the couple was spending thousands on Sèvres and Spode dinner services at a time when a Jackson Pollock drip painting could be bought for $800. […] the numbers would have been even bigger had the Rockefellers bought Pollock rather than porcelain.
What if the Rockefellers Had Bought Pollock Instead of Porcelain? (The New York Times)