In recent years we are witnessing the proliferation of auctions entirely dedicated _ to the assets accumulated by individual collectors, the so-called collection sales, whose success and media hype have inspired the auction houses to increase their appointments. The reasons behind the sale can be the death, bankruptcy, divorce, make space in the collection, or heirs who prefer to divide the profits rather than works and objects.
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Liz Taylor, Gunther Sachs, are among the most fascinating episodes that have attracted many collectors, bringing sales rates up to 100%. Alongside collections by the finest and great personality, the cult of celebrity and prestigious provenance play a key role in these sales, accompanied by a media effect capable of pulling upward even smaller lots.
Examples of this success can also be found in some auctions of the Nineteenth century, like the one organized by Christie’s directly into the home of the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1848 that, strictly from the clutches of debt, had sold all his property by invoking the interest of thousands of people between nobility and bourgeoisie. The sale had yielded the equivalent of £ 5 million today, where there was also a small portrait of Shakespeare attributed to John Taylor in 1610 and a Venus from the Baths of Agrippa in Rome. The divorce was the cause of the sale at auction of the collection of Robert and Ethel Scull. The first sale in 1973 at Sotheby’s, a second group in 1986.
Closer to our days we can count the Collection of the Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild, passed under the hammer at Christie’s in July of 2000, reaching the highest total ever recorded for a single collection in Europe, beating also 27 records in its £ 57.7 million gain. Also in 2000, The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe was received with great enthusiasm, beating the record for a memorabilia of a celebrity with the dress ‘Happy Birthday’ worn by Marilyn in 1962 for the song dedicated to President John F. Kennedy, sold for $ 1.2 million.
In 2009, the auction of the records was the prestigious collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé at the Grand Palais, held at Christie’s together with Pierre Bergé & Associates auctioneers, who beat the highest total for a collection sale with its € 342,5 million, still unbeated. For the occasion, even the Grand Palais in Paris opened its halls for the exhibition of 733 pieces for sale, including works of art, art deco, furniture, jewelry and bronzes by the great artistic value. Among the records achieved, the “chair with dragons” by Eileen Gray, a masterpiece of Art Deco, estimated between 2 and 3 million and sold for € 21.9 million, thus reaching the second price higher for a furniture. In painting, a record for Matisse with his work “Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose” sold at 35.9 million €.
To achieve this media hype we have to wait the December 2011, with the series of auctions entirely dedicated to the collection of Elizabeth Taylor, divided between art, fashion, decorative arts, jewelry and memorabilia. This sector has unleashed the paddles of the collectors in the room: The Elizabeth Taylor Collection of Jewellery broke the record of the category, totaling $ 144 million and a percentage of sales up to 100%. Top lot was the magnificent La Peregrina pearl, the necklace that Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 for $ 37,000, estimated 2-3 million dollars and sold to a record price of $ 11.8milioni, after a battle lasting more than four minutes.
But even in Asia examples are not lacking: in 2011 the auction of the Ullens Collection – the founders of the ‘Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing – officiated at Sotheby’s represented unique chance of winning works of the China’s leading avant-garde art. The auction totaled 54.7 million dollars, against a pre-sale estimate of 12-16 million. In addition, record for the triptych by Zhang Xiaogang, Forever Lasting Love, sold for $ 10 million, surpassing the estimate of 3.2 million.
Recently, the collection of the famous German playboy Gunther Sachs totaled £ 35.6 million pounds at Sotheby’s in May, compared to the high estimate of £ 25 million and pulling upward even smaller objects.
In the wake of this enthusiasm, Sotheby’s and Christie’s have already announced the collection sales of the next fall. On September 24, Sotheby’s will present 100 works of contemporary art from the collection of Marcel Brient, the great French collector who was among the first to buy works by Jeff Koons, John Currin, Takashi Murakami and Felix Gonzales-Torres. On September 27, will then be the turn of Christie’s with the collection of the master of elegance Hélène Rochas in Paris, with works of modern and antique, Art Deco furniture and objects.
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