Who says art doesn’t pay?
On Monday night, Sotheby’s wrapped up its sale of the Macklowe Collection, bringing in a robust $246.1 million. But that’s only half the story—or, more accurately, less than a third of it. When combined with the first auction in the series, which took place in November, the collection of artworks garnered an astonishing $922.2 million, making it the most valuable collection ever sold at auction.
“The record-setting sale of the Macklowe Collection represents a landmark and historic event in the art market, and we are delighted to deliver such an outstanding result—testament to the quality of the collection assembled over several decades of dedicated pursuit,” Charles F. Stewart, the CEO of Sotheby’s, said in a statement.
Harry and Linda Macklowe amassed the pieces over the course of their nearly 60-year marriage, and every lot offered Monday night went home with a new owner. The top lot of the evening was a late Mark Rothko work, Untitled (1960), which sold for $48 million, at the high end of the work’s pre-auction estimate.
Half of the pieces on the auction block last night sold for more than their high estimate. This included Agnes Martin’s Early Morning Happiness (2001), which hammered down for $9.9 million, as well as a Jeff Koons sculpture that sold for $3.9 million. Willem de Kooning’s Untitled (1961) similarly beat out its pre-sale estimates, with six bidders bringing the work’s total to $17.8 million.
Elsewhere, both Pop Art and German works had a strong showing. One of Andy Warhol’s last works sold to a Japanese collector for $18.7 million, while a Roy Lichtenstein mirror painting brought in $6.1 million. Two pieces by the German artist Sigmar Polke combined for $12.3 million, and Gerhard Richter’s 1969 work Seestück (Seascape) fetched a whopping $30.2 million.
With both the November and May auctions, new records were set for four artists: Jackson Pollock’s Number 17, 1951 sold for $61.2 million; Agnes Martin’s Untitled #44 (1974) for $17.7 million; Robert Irwin’s Untitled (1965–66) for $8.3 million; and Michael Heizer’s Track Painting (1967) for $1.1 million.
“I’m just so pleased that the paintings have found a new home,” Harry Macklowe told Artnet News as he was leaving Monday night’s auction. “It makes me very happy.”
The Macklowe Collection’s massive total unseats the Rockefeller Collection as the most valuable collection sold at auction. Four years ago, Christie’s sold the Rockefeller artworks for $835.1 million. (Artnet News noted, however, that adjusted for inflation, that collection would be worth about $961.5 million today.)
Monday night’s proceedings kicked off the second week of the mega-auction season, which is expected to bring in about $2.6 billion. Get ready for more records to be set in the coming days.