May 14, 2018

The $833 million Rockefeller collection smashed the record for the most expensive estate sale of all time.

Christie’s New York hosted sales from the morning to the night, online and in person, and in a matter of days had offloaded more than 2000 objects from the collection of David Rockefeller—the last surviving grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller—and his late wife, Peggy. The total after a week of sales nearly doubled the previous record for an estate sale, notched in 2009 when Christie’s offered up the estate of Yves Saint Laurent. The top end of the Rockefeller trove included Impressionist masterpieces such as Picasso’s Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie (1905), which sold for $115 million, and Monet’s Nymphéas en Fleur, which sold for $84 million. And bidding exploded on the less expensive lots, too. A money clip in the online sale was expected to bring in $1,200, but incited a frenzy of interest and eventually sold for $75,000.
Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reported that while some industry speculation prior to the sale estimated the total would crack the billion-dollar mark, Christie’s Americas chairman Marc Porter said the internal estimate had always been $500 million. The house had guaranteed the Rockefeller family—which is donating all proceeds to a variety of charities—a $650 million haul.  “I never thought it could make a billion dollars,” Porter told the Times. Pogrebin added that the family members appeared to be pleased with the sale, which was marketed by Christie’s using a savvy advertising tag that appealed to the aspirations of those outside the billionaire’s tax bracket: “Live Like a Rockefeller.”