Art from acrimonious divorce raises $676m at Sotheby’s in New York | Art

An acrimonious divorce in which the warring parties were ordered to sell an art collection including works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko after being unable to agree its worth, has resulted in the most valuable auction ever held by one of the world’s leading art houses.

More than $676m(£503m) was paid for the Macklowe Collection, amassed over more than half a century by the real estate magnate Harry Macklowe and Linda Macklowe, an honorary trustee of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The total sum made the sale the most valuable single-owner auction ever staged, and the most valuable auction held at Sotheby’s, the auction house said.

Andy Warhol’s Nine Marilyns (left), which sold for $47.4m, and Jackson Pollock’s Number 17, 1951 (right), up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York. Photograph: Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images

The 35 works included Rothko’s 8ft tall Number 7, which was sold for $82.5m, the largest single sum of the sale. Created in 1951, the painting was described by Grégoire Billault, Sotheby’s chairman for contemporary art, as “a perfect symphony of colour, light and scale” and among the artist’s greatest works.

Warhol’s silkscreen Nine Marilyns sold for $47.4m and his Sixteen Jackies reached $33.9m. Alberto Giacometti’s bronze sculpture, Le Nez, sold for $78.4m and another by Picasso reached $26.3m.

Pollock’s Number 17, 1951 more than doubled the lower end of its pre-sale estimate to go for $61.2m, and Cy Twombly’s untitled painting of dripping red peonies made £58.9m.

The collection also included works by Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Agnes Martin.

The Macklowes, both in their 80s, built up their art collection over almost six decades of marriage, although Linda was thought to be the driving force behind most acquisitions.

Harry and Linda Macklowe attend a gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 2007
Harry and Linda Macklowe attend a gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 2007. Photograph: Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

The couple were renowned for making barbed exchanges at public events, and their marital strife eventually resulted in a divorce. As well as their art collection, at stake were two Manhattan apartments – one valued at $72m – plus a $19m estate in the Hamptons and a 150ft yacht.

But neither they nor their lawyers could agree on the value of their art collection. A judge concluded the only way to establish its worth was to test the market, and ordered the works to be sold.

Following a 14-week divorce case, Harry Macklowe celebrated his new marriage to Patricia Landau by posting 42ft high images of the newlyweds on one of his buildings in New York’s Park Avenue – within sight of his ex-wife’s apartment.

The sale at Sotheby’s in New York on Monday evening was regarded as the biggest test of the fine art market since the start of the Covid pandemic in early 2020. With demand generally exceeding supply, there was strong competition for the works, particularly from bidders representing Asian buyers.

Almost a third of Sotheby’s sales last year were secured for Asian collectors.

Both Harry and Linda Macklowe attended the Sotheby’s sale. A second sale, of a further 40 works in the couple’s collection, is scheduled for May 2022.

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