LiveArt After Action Report: The Macklowe Collection Sale, part 2 (Sotheby’s New York)

A breakdown of the second half of the Macklowe Collection at Sotheby's plus need-to-know lots from Rothko to Koons and the state of global bidding

The Bullet: $246,087,500 with 100% sold (30/30) with a hammer ratio of 1.24

Composition of Results: 30% above/ 60% within/ 10% below estimates 

The average lot value for the entire Macklowe collection was $14.2 million. In tonight’s lower value sale the average lot value was $6.96 million and the median price was $5 million. To see more stats from tonight, click here.

The Macklowe Collection is the world’s most valuable single-owner sale at $922.2 million: As he did after the blowout success of last November’s $676 million sale, Harry Macklowe took a victory lap tonight when it was revealed that the combined sale had reached nearly a billion dollars. Sotheby’s Mari-Claudia Jimenez pointed out that the collection had two works over $70 million; 4 works above $50 million; 14 works above $20 million; and 20 works that sold for more than $10 million. Macklowe demurred that the money was hardly as important as the “quality of the works being recognized by other collectors'' which he described as the “greatest payback and gratification.” Absent from the commentary was Linda Macklowe whose eye has been universally credited for guiding the collection.

“A perfect three-engine market”: That’s how Gregoire Billault described the presence of bidders from 30 countries across North America, Europe and Asia. He would know. His client bought Mark Rothko’s untitled work for $48 million after being pushed by an Asian underbidder. A large Warhol fright wig sold to an Asian collector for $18.7 million which is substantially below what three similar large fright wigs previously made.  

“The state of the market is bullish for the right objects.” Auctioneer Oliver Barker was sure to talk up the broader health of the art market after the Macklowe sale but, as was seen the previous week with the Bass works, buyers believe the right works are also works previously owned by well-respected collectors. Brooke Lampley added that the market strength was based upon the “titans of art history” and that “geopolitics doesn’t affect quality,” meaning buyers would always be there for the best works. 

The auction was very well managed: Despite having covered the guarantee with the first part of the Macklowe sale, Sotheby’s team was cautious with estimates and somewhat liberal with irrevocable bids. Barker announced at the beginning of the sale that more than a quarter of the sale was covered by third-party guarantees. In many cases that proved the smart move in getting the works sold. In a small number of cases, Sotheby’s found a buyer for works below the estimate level. Sotheby’s team priced most of the works exactly where the market is right now.

For certain works, the bidders came out: Sigmar Polke, whose work often struggles at auction, was the focal point for a number of bidders. Sotheby’s had taken an irrevocable bid on one of the Polkes. But both works saw deep bidding to $6 million sale prices. The two Agnes Martin works were bid upon by a couple in the room who lost out on Early Morning Happiness when it was bid to an $8.3 million hammer price over a $2.5 million low estimate.  Undeterred, the same couple bought #11 for a $6.4 million premium price which was much closer to the $4 million low estimate. The two surprise lots of the evening were Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror #9 which surpassed Mirror #1 (sold in November for $4.6 million) to make $6 million and Willem de Kooning’s untitled work from 1961 which saw six different bidders chase to a final price of $17.8 million.

Other results remain a mystery: An example of Jeff Koons’s seminal vacuum cleaners sold for the low estimate at $4.4 million. But the porcelain work Popples that the Macklowes acquired in 1989 and is one of an edition of three works sold for twice the low estimate to make $3.9 million. 

View the results in full here.

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