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Rockefeller – Another Great Buy And Hold Story

May 14, 2018


The Rockefeller series of sales are over, and the results were STRONG … even though they did not hit the $1 billion whisper number. But can anyone really complain about a sale of household contents that made over $832 million? If you are complaining, get a life! We watched some of the sales and were continuously amazed at the prices achieved for items that some would say are nothing special. Now here is the most important part, the Rockefeller’s bought all the pieces to live with and decorate their homes. They were not buying for investment purposes, just for the joy of owning, using and looking at them. What this collection beautifully illustrates is the power of a buy and hold … even if your taste runs to the more traditional and you like ‘brown’ furniture.


Lance covered the two main evening art auctions in previous posts, and those results were robust. The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: 19th and 20th Century Art totaled $646M, while The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: Art of the Americas added $106.8M.


Thursday, May 10th, there were three scheduled sales. The first, featuring the ‘less expensive’ works of art, rocked. To give you an idea of how impressive things were, here are a few results. Henry Moore’s Oval Sculpture (purchased in 1967) was estimated to bring $300-$500K and sold for $3.97M, Redon’s La barque aux deux femmes blanches carried a $500-$700K estimate and brought $3.13M (acquired in 1954), and Camille Pissarro’s Félix Pissarro lisant (acquired in 1952) brought $3M on a $900-$1.2M estimate. In fact, many of the works left their estimates in the dust like Maurice de Vlaminck’s Deux mats devant la côte (1925), a 15.5 x 18.5 inch work on paper, that carried a $30-50K estimate and sold for $312K; Bernard Buffet’s Mouche (an 11.5 x 14.5 inch painting of a fly from 1952), also estimated at $30-50K and sold for $194K; and Dale Chihuly’s A Venetian Vase (1989) which brought $52.5K on a $6-8K estimate. By the end of that session, another $43 million was added to the tally … the low end of the estimate range was a measly $21M.

George III Yew and Elm Armchairs

A selection of English & European Furniture, Ceramics and Decorations followed the art sale … you know, all that ‘brown furniture’ that nobody wants … HA HA! Item, after item, sold very well … and some made terrific prices. A set of six George III Yew and Elm Armchairs (brown furniture) made $337K (est. $50-80K). An English inlaid side table (also brown) was expected to sell between $5-8K and made a whopping $300K; and a pair of George II armchairs (oh, I think they were brown as well) shot past their $15-25K estimate to sell for $194K. In the end, another $7.97M was deposited in the coffers. What was most interesting about this sale is that there was so much bidding (a lot of it pretty slow) that it did not end until after 9 pm! Now you might think ok, it ran a little late; however, the Travel and Americana sale (with more than 180 lots) was scheduled to start at 7 pm. That did not happen until about 9:30 pm … and I wanted to watch some of the items in that sale.

Here again, prices for many items were through the roof. A rare Anhua-Decorated Blue and White Dragon Bowl carried a $100-150K estimate and sold for $2.77M; a standard Antonio Jacobsen ship portrait from 1895 made $27.5K on a $7-10K estimate; a Whistling Swan decoy by John Haynes Williams brought $349K (est. $100-150K); and a Ming-Style Huali Hexagonal Chair from the 20th century (let me stress 20th century) hit $38K on a $1-1.5K estimate. By 11:30 pm there were about half-way through and I signed off … time for me to go to sleep! But there must have been a lot of determined buyers since all the lots sold and added an additional $11.6M to the kitty.

With the help of a global guarantee of $650M, they had a white glove sale (100% sold) … cannot get any better than that! What is going to be really interesting is to see what some of these items (with over-the-top results) bring when they return to the market. I have a feeling that some people are not going to be very happy.

Keep in mind that not all of Rockefeller’s collection hit the auction block, a lot was donated. In April, Forbes ran Inside Late Billionaire David Rockefeller’s Will: Picassos, A Beetle Collection And A Maine Island.  It shows that had all of his personal items come up for sale, the $1 Billion whisper number would not have been a whisper, it would have been a reality. His art collection consisted of some 4500 works and among the recipients of his generosity were:

Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: Vlaminck’s Paysage de Banlieu
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: Pissarro’s Landscape Near Pontoise
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine: Wyeth’s River Cove
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Manet’s La Brioche
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York: Schongauer’s Death of the Virgin
MOMA received a huge trove:
Bonnard’s The Promenade
Braque’s The Large Trees, l’Estaque (1907)
Cezanne’s Boy in a Red Vest, La Montagne Saint Victoire and Still Life with Fruit Dish
Derain’s Charing Cross Bridge
Dufy’s Le 14 Juillet au Havre
Gauguin’s Portrait of Meyer de Haan
Matisse’s Interior with a Young Girl (1905-1906)
Picasso’s Le Coq (1938), Woman and Dog under a Tree and The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro (1909)
Signac’s Opus 217 … Portrait of M. Felix Feneon in 1890.

It is nice to see that these works will now be available for all to see and enjoy!

For more news on the sales, check out these articles:

SOURCE: Rockefeller estate auction which sold off the famous family’s art and heirlooms raised $828 MILLION – breaking the record for a single-owner collection

SOURCE: The Biggest Surprises From the $828 Million Rockefeller Sale

SOURCE: It Didn’t Hit $1 Billion, but Rockefeller Sale Still Set a Record