At $922 Million, the Macklowe Collection Becomes the Most Valuable Ever Sold at Auction

At $922 Million, the Macklowe Collection Becomes the Most Valuable Ever Sold at Auction

The unparalleled group of 65 masterworks acquired through extraordinary connoisseurship was sold over two white-glove sales on 15 November 2021 and 16 May 2022.
The unparalleled group of 65 masterworks acquired through extraordinary connoisseurship was sold over two white-glove sales on 15 November 2021 and 16 May 2022.

A t a certain point during Monday’s auction of The Macklowe Collection, the room took on an air of achievement. By the time lot 12 came to the block, the unparalleled collection of modern and contemporary art was just shy of becoming the most valuable collection ever sold at auction. When a Self Portrait from Andy Warhol’s final major body of work sold, the sale broke a record established in 2018. And the event wasn’t halfway over.

The historic night’s final tally was 246.1 million USD. With the November 2021 sale of thirty-five additional works from the collection, which realized a total of $676.1 million, The Macklowe Collection reached a combined $922.2 million.

The auction opened with Warhol’s Blue Airmail Stamps — the first of three works by the artist — selling comfortably above its high estimate for $1.3 million. The next lot, Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror #9, swelled during a tense two-way phone bidding war that ended at just over $6 million, triple the work’s high estimate. The deliberate pace was quickened during the third lot, Agnes Martin’s Early Morning Happiness, which saw multiple bidders jog it well above its estimate in seconds. At $5 million, only two bidders remained, and in the end the work achieved $9.9 million from a bidder in the room, riding a surge from Martin’s November auction record of $17.7 million.

The top lot was Mark Rothko’s Untitled, from 1960, a critical year for the artist. The painting had never been on public display until it was exhibited earlier this month at Sotheby’s and was one of two paintings by Rothko in the collection. Sold in November for $82.5 million, No. 7 remains the second-highest-value painting by the artist. Untitled sold for $48 million.

All thirty works sold on Monday, making it the collection’s second white-glove auction.

The return of The Macklowe Collection realized $246.1 million over 30 lots.
“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, Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer

Interest in The Macklowe Collection spanned the globe, with bids coming in from thirty different countries across four continents. Asia offered a strong showing, presenting underbids on the Rotkho, Warhol’s Blue Airmail Stamps and Jeff Koons’s Popples. A collector from Japan made the winning $18.7 million bid for Warhol’s Self Portrait.

Multiple lots faced as many as six different bidders, including an untitled Willem de Kooning from 1961, made shortly before the artist decamped from Manhattan to East Hampton. The work achieved $17.8 million, well beyond its $7–10 million estimate. A crowd of bidders also faced off for two works by Sigmar Polke, both of which doubled their high estimates: Plastik-Wannen [Plastic Tubs] achieved $6.2 million and The Copyist $6.1 million. (It was a strong outing for German art, given Gerhard Richter’s monumental Seestück [Seascape] also sold for $30.2 million.)

A traveling public exhibition of works from The Macklowe Collection saw over 40,000 visitors in the weeks leading up to the sale. The online catalogue saw over 100,000 unique visitors.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about The Macklowe Collection isn’t that it set such a thrilling record, but that it did so with only several dozen artworks. Among the sixty-five exceptionally curated works constituting The Macklowe Collection, two sold for over $70 million, four sold for over $50 million, fourteen sold for over $20 million and twenty sold for over $10 million. The average lot value for the November sale was an outstanding $19.3 million, and the average of the entire collection $14.2 million.

Now, following the historic auction, each masterpiece will embark on a new chapter, extending the vision of the Macklowes’s prescient collecting.

Brooke Lampley, Chairman & Worldwide Head of Sales for Global Fine Art, hands Oliver Barker the white gloves traditionally given to an auctioneer after an event where every lot sells. Photography by Julian Cassady for Sotheby’s.

Top 10 Lots from The Macklowe Collection

Contemporary Art Auction Results

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