For the ultra-wealthy, divorces can be expensive; mansions must be split up along with cars and jewelry divided. But, for billionaire Harry Macklowe and his wife Linda, it was a legendary art collection worth $676 million that the couple sparred over.
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Two of the most prized pieces of work include a painting by abstract painter Mark Rothko which fetched $82.5 million, and Jackson Pollock’s Number 17, 1951, which sold for over $61 million to set a new record for the artist’s work.
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“It’s a collection that has never been moved or touched,” said Grégoire Billault, chairman of contemporary art for Sotheby’s, at a press event announcing the two-part auction in September. “Quite often, when we have collections for sale, a lot of it has been sold already, or some works are given to museums; others are given to members of the family.”
In 2018 as part of their divorce proceedings, a New York State Supreme Court ordered the pair to sell the collection.
The controversial ruling came after the pair could not agree on the value of the artworks. For instance, the pair differed in their valuations of Alberto Giacometti’s existential sculpture La Nez by $30 million. A judge appointed an administrator to oversee the sale of the items and ordered them to split the profits.
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The collection, estimated to be worth only $400 million, toured several locations, including Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris, and London, before returning to New York.
At a virtual press event announcing the sale in September, Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart had called the Macklowe Collection “one of the most significant and museum-quality collections of modern and contemporary art ever to come to market,” and noted the significance of the auction by concluding that “this sale will make history as the defining moments in the art market.”
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