Auction History At Sotheby’s: The $922 Million Macklowe Collection Becomes Most Valuable Ever

In a historic moment for the art market, The Macklowe Collection recently became the most valuable collection ever sold in auction history. The recent offering of 30 works from the celebrated collection realized $246.1 million, bringing the combined total for the November and May auctions to $922.2 million, with an average lot value of $14.2 million – a record for a collection at Sotheby’s.

Together, the 65 works outstripped their combined pre-sale estimate ($607-855 million), with every one of the works, offered to find a new home. 

“The unparalleled quality of The Macklowe Collection excited collectors around the world, and the results are an homage to the art of collecting in its highest form.”

Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s Chairman & Worldwide Head of Sales for Global Fine Art  

“Across both sales, works by the biggest names in Modern and Contemporary art proved that the top end of the market remains exceptionally strong, and that collector confidence is high. When quality is brought to the market, that quality continues to drive top results.” 

Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Sotheby’s Chairman, Managing Director & Worldwide Head of Business Development for Global Fine Art

Across both the November and May sales of The Macklowe Collection:

  • Two works sold for over $70 million, four works sold for over $50 million, 14 works sold for over $20 million, and 26 works sold for over $10 million 
  • 40,000 visitors came to view the collection in person at the various international stops to which it traveled, and more than 100,000 unique visitors viewed the catalog pages on Sothebys.com, the sale watched by millions of viewers across the world
  • New records for Jackson Pollock ($61.2 million), Robert Irwin ($8.3 million), Michael Heizer ($1.1 million), Agnes Martin ($17.7 million)
  • Similarly, new market-defining prices were set for:
    • Mark Rothko ($82.5 million) – second highest price at auction
    • Sigmar Polke ($21.5 million) – second highest price at auction
    • Cy Twombly ($58.9 million) – third highest price auction

Sale At A Glance

  • Auction total comfortably exceeds the high estimate to reach $246.1 million (est. $167.6-236.4 million)
  • 30 lots offered | 100% sold
  • Participation from 30 countries, across 4 continents (including Asia, with Asian collectors active on the Rothko, Koons’ Popples, and Warhol’s Blue Air Mail Stamps, and more
  • Deep bidding with up to six bidders on multiple lots
  • 50% of lots sold over the high estimate

“With bids from across America, Asia, and Europe, tonight’s auction was truly global. The language of great art is universal.” 

Grégoire Billault, Sotheby’s Chairman for Contemporary Art

Auction History At Sotheby's: The $922 Million Macklowe Collection Becomes Most Valuable Ever

Deep bidding on masterworks at this level is the surest sign that the market is committed, confident, and quick to recognize the quality for what it is.

 David Galperin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, Americas 

Auction Highlights

Following the November sale, there was continued demand for works by masters of abstraction, including for the top spot of the night: a never-before-seen late masterpiece by Mark Rothko (lot 8, est. $35-50 million) from his critical year of 1960 sold for $48 million to Grégoire Billault, of Sotheby’s New York following a prolonged bidding battle with an underbidder from Asia.

Following the success of Willem de Kooning in the November sale, his widely exhibited Untitled (1961) (lot 9, est. $7-10 million) far exceeded its estimate to sell for $17.8 million, with six bidders. 

Similarly, in the light of the $17.7 million auction record achieved for Agnes Martin in November, Early Morning Happiness tripled its estimate to achieve $9.9 million (lot 3, est. $2.5-3.5 million), with six bidders. Later in the sale Untitled #11 similarly sold over the high estimate (lot 14, est. $4-6 million). 

Pop Art: One of Warhol’s very final works from 1986 was sold to a Japanese collector for $18.7 million (lot 12, est. $15-20 million). Elsewhere, one of Roy Lichtenstein’s seminal mirror paintings tripled the high estimate to bring $6.1 million, after six bidders competed for nearly 10 minutes (lot 2, est. $1.5-2 million).

A strong offering of German art: Two works by Sigmar Polke both soared overestimated: a rare oil dating from the 1960s with four bidders that reached $6.2 million (lot 4, est. $3.5-4.5 million) and a seminal late work that sold for $6.1 million (lot 13, est. $3-4 million). This follows the second highest price for the artist set at $21.5 million in the November sale. Elsewhere tonight, Gerhard Richter’s monumental photorealistic painting, Seestück [Seascape], reached $30.2 million (lot 5, est. $25-35 million). 

Sothebys

Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as the collection, artist, estate & foundation advisory services of its subsidiary, Art Agency, Partners. Sotheby’s also presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby's Global Fine Art Division, and three retail businesses: Sotheby’s Wine, Sotheby’s Diamonds, and Sotheby’s Home, the online marketplace for interior design.

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