It’s fair to say that, when it comes to the endless parade of new contemporary art records at auction, we have become comfortably numb. But now astronomical heights have been reached in a whole new category: the realm of Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia.
On Thursday at Christie’s New York salesroom, 126 guitars from the collection of Pink Floyd lead axeman David Gilmour sold for a total of $21.5 million, making it the most valuable auction of musical instruments in history. The lead lot was also a new mark, as Gilmour’s 1969 Black Fender Stratocaster—known as The Black Strat—sold for $3.97 million, making it the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction.
Astoundingly, the total for the Black Strat was more than 26 times its high estimate of $150,000, with the entire auction being pushed back an hour due to potential paddle-wielders who lined up around the Christie’s headquarters at Rockefeller Center. The house noted that there were more than 2,000 registered bidders from 66 countries.
The Black Strat was Gilmour’s six-stringer of choice, and he thrashed it on such iconic Pink Floyd records as The Wall, Wish You Were Here, and Dark Side of The Moon. But another big seller Thursday night was a 1954 White Fender Stratocaster that he played on Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 and3)—Also estimated at $150,000, the guitar sold for $1.8 million.
In a statement, Kerry Keane, a musical instruments specialist at Christie’s, said:
David Gilmour’s music and performance is indelibly burned into the soundtrack of our popular culture. The outpouring of excitement leading up to the sale and today’s extraordinary results speaks volumes to his appeal as an artist and as a man of the world, one who has a committed philanthropic mission that supports humanity globally.
All of the auction’s proceeds will benefit ClientEarth, a charity which fights the effects of climate change. The previous record for the most valuable guitar collection was held by Eric Clapton, who staged two sales in 1999 and 2004 that grossed a total of $12.5 million.