Staying true to the Rockefeller legacy, David Rockefeller is still breaking records even after his death last year. The last surviving grandson of America’s first billionaire John D. Rockefeller, David Rockefeller’s private art collection recently became the most valuable single-owner private sale in American history, with more than 1,500 pieces being auctioned off in a four-day period. The impressive collection included works by Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Pablo Picasso.
Though now considered one of the greatest art collectors of the 20th century, Rockefeller had no interest in art collection until Marga Barr, wife of the Museum of Modern Art’s first director, visited his home in 1948 and insulted the art he had on the walls. After that, Rockefeller and his wife Peggy decided to increase the quality of art they displayed in their home. Barr and her husband helped educate the Rockefellers about late 19th-century and early 20th-century artwork and offered them guidance as they started to acquired Impressionist and modern pieces.
The massive collection contains more than just paintings; the Rockefellers also collected furniture and porcelain, including a 256-piece Sèvres dessert service set that Napoleon brought with him after being exiled to Elba. The set sold for $1.8 million, setting a record for highest price paid for 19th-century porcelain.
As a child, Rockefeller’s father expected he give one-third of his allowance to charity. The importance of giving back to others was a lesson stayed with him until his death; all of the money raised at the auction will go to various nonprofit organizations close to Rockefeller’s heart, including the Museum of Modern Art, Harvard University, Rockefeller University and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
After the four-day auction concluded,22 world records were broken and all pieces were sold for a total of $832 million. On the first night alone, over $646 million was made in sales. A “Rose Period” piece of Picasso’s, Fillette a la corbeille fleurie, sold for $115 million, the highest ever paid for a painting from that period of his work. This piece was previously owned by Gertrude Stein and was obtained by Rockefeller after the death of her partner Alice B. Toklas. A piece from Monet’s water lilies collection, Nympheas en fleur, sold for $84.7 million, the highest ever paid for one of his works. And, a Henri Matisse painting, Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, sold for $80 million, also a record-high for one of his pieces.