Sotheby’s Prepares to Auction the Macklowe Collection, Worth $600 Million

Liz Catalano
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The storied and highly contested Macklowe Collection will finally make its auction debut with Sotheby’s on November 15th, 2021. After years of contentious divorce proceedings, Harry and Linda Macklowe agreed to sell 64 major pieces from their collection. Sotheby’s will present half of the offerings this November and the rest in May of 2022. The auction house expects the sales to bring in over USD 600 million. 

“The Macklowe Collection stands in a league of its own as the greatest collection of modern and contemporary art ever to come to the market,” said Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO, in a press statement. “It will undoubtedly captivate top collectors from around the world, and the sale will make history as one of the landmark events defining the art market and the history of Sotheby’s over the past 277 years.”

Harry and Linda Macklowe in 2015. Image by Nicholas Hunt via CNN.
Harry and Linda Macklowe in 2015. Image by Nicholas Hunt via CNN.

A host of legal, personal, and international roadblocks delayed the Macklowe Collection’s journey to market. New York real estate developer Harry Macklowe built and managed some of the most significant skyscrapers in Manhattan. Harry and his wife, Linda, acquired numerous properties during their 57 years of marriage. Their art collection is especially famous— the couple purchased most works before the featured artists entered the mainstream. Linda Macklowe filed for divorce in 2016 and set off the highly publicized $2 billion proceedings. The battle for assets escalated rapidly. A judge eventually ordered the appointment of an art industry receiver to manage the Macklowe Collection’s sale. Veteran art dealer Michael Findlay took over the role. 

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In March of 2020, Findlay announced plans to postpone the auction, citing “the current international situation stemming from the COVID-19 virus.” Top auction houses in the industry continued to tussle for the collection in the following months. Over a year later, Sotheby’s announced that it would sell the Macklowe Collection. This prize was hard-won. While Sotheby’s declined to discuss the details, some sources suggest that the auction house secured the collection after it offered a guarantee of $650 million to $700 million. 

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 2007. Image from Sotheby’s.
Cy Twombly, Untitled , 2007. Image from Sotheby’s.

The Macklowe Collection contains some of the most coveted fine artworks and sculptures in the art world. Sotheby’s will present 64 items from the couple’s 165-piece collection. An 18-foot-long Cy Twombly painting is among the top lots coming to auction in November. The untitled painting from 2007 belongs to the artist’s late-career A Scattering of Blossoms series. Scarlet peonies bloom and drip across the mint green canvas. Created for an exhibition at the Collection Lambert in Avignon, Untitled explicitly references the poetry of Edo-period writers Bashō and Kikaku. It is the first painting from Twombly’s peonies series to hit the auction block, and it carries a presale estimate of $40 million to $60 million. 

Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez, cast in 1965. Image from Sotheby’s.
Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez, cast in 1965. Image from Sotheby’s.

Alberto Giacometti’s Le Nez is another anticipated lot. The artist conceived this sculpture in 1947 after returning to his Paris studio in the wake of World War II. A limbless figure hangs from a wire in a cage. Its mouth hangs open as a thin nose protrudes beyond the cage into empty space. Le Nez, like most of Giacometti’s sculptures, was subject to extensive revision in the decades that followed its creation. Giacometti eventually added rounded feet to the cage and a narrower nose to the figure. Sotheby’s will offer a 1965 cast of this sculpture with an estimate of $70 million to $90 million. This is reportedly the last piece from Giacometti’s Le Nez series to remain in private hands. 

Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1951. Image from Sotheby’s.
Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1951. Image from Sotheby’s.

A Mark Rothko painting from 1951 will also come to auction with an estimate of $70 million to $90 million. This piece dates back to a critical time in Rothko’s career. 1951 was the start of the artist’s mature period and iconic color field paintings. At nearly eight feet tall, No. 7 towers over the viewer. It invites emotional engagement. Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s Chairman and Worldwide Head of Sales for Global Fine Art, notes that “Rothko painted large pictures to create precisely this experience of immersive intimacy, in which we are not outside observers, but are absorbed into the work.”

Sotheby’s will offer several other masterworks from the Macklowe Collection this November. Franz Kline’s frantic Crosstown, Andy Warhol’s ghostly Nine Marilyns, and Jackson Pollock’s Number 17 splatter painting lead the modern art listings. Collectors will also find a robust selection of contemporary items. This includes pieces by Gerhard Richter, Brice Marden, Jeff Koons, and Wade Guyton. 

The first part of the Macklowe Collection will come to auction with Sotheby’s on November 15th, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST. Find more information and register to bid by visiting Sotheby’s

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Liz Catalano
Liz Catalano
Senior Writer and Editor

Liz Catalano is a writer and editor for Auction Daily. She covers fine art sales, market analysis, and social issues within the auction industry. She regularly collaborates with auction houses and other clients. A Chicago native, she holds a BSW degree and is based in Pennsylvania.

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