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The Americans … We Are Now At $765M And Still Going!

May 10, 2018

de Kooning

Part two of the Rockefeller sale took place last night, and while nearly incomparable to the night prior (part 1), there were still many incredible works up for grabs and some impressive results in the end. Part two featured an offering of 19th and 20th-century American paintings (and one sculpture)…

The top lot here was Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XIX – a work completed in 1982, towards the end of his painting career (de Kooning’s last painting was completed in 1991, and he passed away in 1997 at age 92). The work attracted a number of bidders and saw the price climb to $12.4M ($14.2 with premium) after more than 10 minutes of bidding – the work was only expected to bring between $6-8M.

Gilbert Stuart

Not far behind was the most impressive performing lot of the night… a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. The work was painted in 1795 and is regarded as the earliest of three important portraits depicting the first President, George Washington (Vaughan type) – the work found a buyer at $10 million… with the premium, that bumps the price up to more than $11.5M – a remarkable result for a work estimated at just $800K-1.2M, and a record for the artist. The last time a portrait of Washington (Vaughan type) by Stuart was in 2017… the work made just $1.33M on a $1.5-2.5M estimate.


Rounding out the top three was a work by Diego Rivera – the painting, commissioned by David Rockefeller’s mother Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, was a wedding present to her son and new wife Peggy. The work, featuring a traditional festival scene, hung in the living room of their Maine home for decades before being offered for sale… it realized a price of $8.4M ($9.7M with premium – another auction record), surpassing the $5-7M estimate.

Most of the works here made fairly strong prices and a few of them really outperformed their expected result… that included a Sargent, selling for more than $9M on a $3-5M estimate; two paintings by Jamie Wyeth which both more than doubled the high end of the estimate range; and a Thomas Moran which nearly tripled the high end of its estimate range. On the flip side, there were a couple of duds (but they still sold)… a small watercolor by Charles Demuth found a buyer at just $75K on a $150-250K estimate, and a Robert Walter Weir only made $200K on a $400-600K estimate.

All 41 works offered found buyers and the evening brought in another $106.8M, adding to the already impressive figure from the night before – in all, the Rockefeller sales have totaled more than $765M… and we’re not even finished yet!