It’s a good week to be Charles F. Stewart, CEO of Sotheby’s. The art auction titan had an enormously successful week, selling the coveted Macklowe Collection, an original copy of the Constitution, original Frida Kahlo art and more. Some of the sales over the past week broke records that seemed untouchable, proving that the pandemic hasn’t slowed the hunger for private art consumption one bit. 

The Macklowe Collection Exceeds Expectations

Sotheby's

The Macklowe Collection auction was highly anticipated by the art world. The private estate collection came to auction after a nasty divorce between Harry and Linda Macklowe. The couple was married for nearly 60 years and although they were a masterful duo when collecting art, the marriage was reportedly contentious and fraught. After the divorce, a judge ordered the couple to auction off their collection and split the profits. Going into the auction, it was estimated that the collection could net as much as $600 million. But it blew past those expectations and earned almost $680 million.

New York Post writes, “While the auction house was packed with elite one-percenters, the real bidding action came over the phone via collectors from 25 countries around the globe. One of them, a mysterious Asian buyer, locked in Mark Rothko’s ‘No. 7’ for a stunning $82.46 million — the auction’s highest sale.

Others who were bidding hard included, reportedly, members of the Qatar and Saudi royal families. A source from the auction told Page Six: ‘Many of the big pieces went to foreign buyers, and it is a big guessing game who bought which artwork.’ Some purchasers, though, were less than secretive.

Cryptocurrency investor Justin Sun claimed via Twitter that he was the buyer of the $78.4 million Giacometti piece ‘Le Nez.’ Sotheby’s reports that it as one of the highest prices ever realized by the artist. Sun plans on donating the work to a foundation that deals in NFTs.”

Other notable sales include a Jackson Pollock piece for $61M, and a five-way head-to-head over Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #44.” The furious back and forth meant that the Martin piece sold for over $17M, more than doubling its initial $8M estimate. Another artist in the lot was Andy Warhol, whose two pieces sold for $48M and $34M. 

It was a truly staggering night of record-breaking for Sotheby’s, making it their biggest night ever. And the kicker? It’s only half of the collection. The other half comes up for auction in May. 

The Constitution, For Sale?

But Macklowe isn’t Sotheby’s only jaw-dropper over the past week. The sale of historical documents is a hotly contested practice, with purists saying that they belong in museums and not in the hands of private collectors. Collectors say it shouldn’t matter; safe is safe, and if the paper is well-documented, it doesn’t need to be displayed. 

Wherever people fall on the debate, this weekend was a record-breaker for historical document sales. An ultra-rare copy of the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution of the United States – yes, it’s a mouthful – went up for auction. It was estimated to sell for $20 million, but the final sale blew that out of the water and the final sale price was $43.2 million. That makes it the highest selling historical document ever, which seems appropriate given its grave importance. 

Frida Kahlo Art Breaks Records

Frida Kahlo

If you’re keeping track, the Consitution and Macklowe collections alone netted over $700 million for Sotheby’s auctions this week, and you can add another $35 million for a Frida Kahlo piece that sold last week. The historic week for Sotheby’s auctions has netted over $1.1 billion, making it a truly staggering record for the art world.

And the Kahlo piece that sold is just the breathtaking icing on the cake. Star Advertiser shares, “The 1949 painting, ‘Diego and I,’ depicts Kahlo’s tumultuous relationship with [Diego] Rivera, the Mexican muralist who was far better known than she was during their lifetimes but whose fame has been eclipsed by hers in recent years.

A Rivera painting had been the previous record-holder for highest auction price for a Latin American artist’s work — $9.8 million in 2018.” 

Although any people have seen their purchasing power change over the past 2 years, it’s clearly that some budgets are untouchable and the art world is seeing a revolution. When the second half of the Macklowe Collection goes up in May, it’ll be interesting to see if this momentum continues. Are people truly turning more to art, willing to pay any amount to possess these historically important pieces? Time will tell.