A century ago, Standard Oil baron John D. Rockefeller became one of the world’s first billionaires at a time when the U.S. government’s annual budget hovered at around $700 million. This month, the vast art collection amassed by his grandson David Rockefeller could make history of its own by selling for as much as $1 billion at when it runs at Christie’s in New York over May 8th, 9th and 10th. No other estate auction has ever crossed that mark.
Behind The Scenes Of Christie’s $500 Million Rockefeller Art Auction https://t.co/YnOdEpvrlz #christies #auction #Rockefeller #collections
— ARTDEX (@theARTDEX) April 9, 2018
Then again, no other Gilded Age dynasty has ever conjured a vision of wealth quite like the Rockefellers, a surname that still serves as a byword for affluence. David Rockefeller, the former chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank who led his extended family for decades until he died a year ago at age 101, lived up to the Rockefeller reputation, maintaining a lifestyle worthy of a genteel monarch. He inherited art but soon developed his own taste, outfitting his four homes between Maine and Manhattan with lush masterpieces by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Gilbert Stuart, Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.
He and his wife of 56 years, Peggy, also accrued 67 porcelain dinner services, including a Sèvres set that Napoleon had taken with him in exile on Elba. They were given a woven picnic basket as big as a park bench by King Hassan II of Morocco. Years after Peggy died in 1996, David still carried on their tradition of weekend tours around their country estates in one of the antique horse-drawn carriages he collected.
When he died, his personal fortune stood at around $1.6 billion. By that point, Rockefeller had already given $1.4 billion to philanthropic causes aimed at education, nature conservation and cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, which was co-founded by his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, in 1929. His will stipulated bequests of another $650 million, so he and advisers from Christie’s agreed to sell off nearly everything in his personal estate after his death, with all the proceeds to be donated—a charity auction to top them all.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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