In the wake of a worldwide marketing campaign, $832.6m (£612m) including premium was generated from 893 lots sold across six auctions, together with a further 650-lot online sale.
Christie’s had reportedly guaranteed the consignment and arranged over a dozen different third-party guarantors to offset the risk. Together they stand to make a substantial return from the upside.
The auctions kicked off with a 44-lot evening sale of 19th and 20th century art on May 8 which raised $646.1m (£476.1m), setting record prices for Monet, Matisse and Delacroix among others.
It was led by a Rose Period Picasso painting from 1905 which had additional provenance to the Gertrude Stein collection. Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, which had been estimated at $100m, was knocked down at $102m (£75m) to a bidder on the phone. Despite the bidding being slow to materialise on this lot, the price was still the second-highest ever for a Picasso at auction.
Bidders at the sales of English & European Furniture, Ceramics and Decorations over the following two days ignored any suggestion of a soft market for traditional antiques.
Heated souvenir purchasing was much in evidence.
The Rockefeller dining table – a Regency mahogany four-pedestal table with brass lion paw castors acquired in 1949 – sold at $380,000 (£288,000), 10 times the estimate.
Bidders ignored any suggestion of a soft market for traditional antiques
Christie’s guarantee gamble pays handsomely as six-sale running total hits $828m
Some superb porcelain lots also excelled. A remarkable pair of Chelsea plaice-form tureens and spoons c.1755 sold for $240,000 (£182,000), while part of the Marly Rouge dessert service made by Sèvres for Napoleon sold at $1.5m (£1.14m) – a record for 19th century ceramics. Plates from this service have appeared piecemeal on the market. However, this selection included both an ice-pail and a pair of eagle-headed sauce-tureens – major elements of the original delivery to Fontainebleau c.1809 not seen since Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired them over 75 years ago.
A large Chinese export Tobacco leaf pattern dinner service, assembled by various members of the family across 40 years since the early 1950s, sold at $950,000 (£720,000).
The group of more than 150 pieces featured a wide range of serving pieces including three large soup tureens.
Landmark single-owner sales
Sotheby’s generated around $480m from the collection of the company’s former chairman A. Alfred Taubman which was sold across two selling series in November 2015 and January 2016. Despite the huge amount raise, the auctioneers later reported making a loss on the $500m it had guaranteed to the Taubman heirs.
Christie’s famous dispersal of the Yves Saint Laurent–Pierre Bergé collection in Paris in February 2009 raised €374m (£332.8m). The 689 lots sold over three days generated a record total for a single-owner sale. The collection also raised record totals for decorative arts and silver.
The art collection of Victor and Sally Ganz sold at Christie's New York in November 1997 totalled an unprecedented $206.5m (£121.9m). It was led by a Picasso portrait of Marie-Therese Walter at $48.4m (£28.6m)
The four-day sale of the collection of John Dorrance Jr, the Campbell's Soup heir, at Sotheby’s New York in October 1989 established major records for the likes of Henri Matisse. The $123.4m (£78.1m) total was a record for a single-owner sale
The ‘white-glove’ sale of the Robert von Hirsch collection at Sotheby’s London in June 1978 consisted of 700 lots and lasted six days. Offering Impressionist & Modern art, Old Masterss, Medieval and Renaissance works of art, furniture and porcelain, it raised £17.5m and set 53 individual auction records.
Sotheby’s nine-day sale of the collection at Mentmore Towers, Lord Rosebery's Buckinghamshire estate, in May 1977 was a landmark auction at the time offering works by the likes of Gainsborough, Reynolds and Boucher as well as items including French furniture, cooking utensils and chamber pots. In all, it raised £6.03m.
The sale of seven Impressionist paintings from the Jakob Goldschmidt collection at Sotheby’s London in October 1958 was a much shorter event – only 21 minutes long – but the £781,000 raised represented the highest total ever achieved for a fine art sale at the time. The sale not only established a record price for a painting – the £220,000 for Cezanne ‘Garcon au Gilet Rouge’ but it also restablished the concept of the evening sale for the first time since the 18th century.