‘Sale of the Century’: The US$106m Art of the Americas Evening Sale

The craze for Rockefeller’s ‘Sale of the Century’ continues in New York. All 41 artworks from ‘The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: Art of the Americas, Evening Sale’ were all sold, breaking the sale total of US$106m. It has become the most spectacular auction of art of the Americas in history.

The leading lot- ‘Untitled XIX’ by Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), has a pre-sale estimate of US$6m–8m.

Willem de Kooning

Kooning was born and raised in Holland. He smuggled into London on a cargo ship when he was around 20 years old and made himself known there. When Europe was burning in the fires of the Second World War, ‘Abstract expressionism’ started to blossom in America. Koooning was one of the leaders of this movement.


This was the first American movement to achieve international influence, the historical moment of America leading the art world. Works of abstract expressionism are rebellious, anarchic and carry anti-figurative aesthetics. Artists used lines, shapes and colours as focal points to express their intense feelings such as anxiety and emptiness.

The famous Larry Gagosian– owner of the Gagosian Gallery chain

The bidding for ‘Untitled XIX’ started at US$3.5m and aroused fierce bidding. When it reached US$9m, there were only two bidders left. They were both telephone bidders, one was Maria Los, Christie’s Deputy Chairman & Head of Client Advisory Americas. The other was Larry Gagosian,  owner of the Gagosian Gallery chain.

Maria Los (second from the left)

Finally, auctioneer Tash Perrin put the hammer down at $US12.4m. The ‘winner’ was Los’ client who acquired the painting for US$14.3m with premium.

Ranking in number two is a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828). Its estimate is US$800,000–US$1,200,000.

This painting, which looks quite familiar, is one of the 1000 portraits that Stuart had painted. His painted 6 portraits of the Presidents of the United States, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. The portrait of George Washington on American dollar notes was painted by Stuart as well.

Part of the painting

When the 7th President of the United States took office, Stuart had already passed away.

This painting’s opening bid was US$7.5m. The situation was very intense with at least 6 telephone bidders competing against each other for 10 minutes. The auctioneer put the hammer down at US$10m, 12.5 times of the estimate. The bidder was a lady in the auction room.


The third highest price of the sale came with ‘The Rivals’ by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. It has a pre-sale estimate of US$5m–7m.

Rivera might not be familiar to people from Asia. He is Mexico’s national treasure who painted numerous murals in the 1920s. He praised the Mexican culture, criticized colonial rule and established the Mexican mural movement.


His wife is the famous female painter Frida Kahlo.

The bidding started at US$4.5m and it was hammered down at US$8.4m, US$9.76m with premium for a telephone bidder.


Top Three Lots

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) ‘Untitled XIX’
Painted: 1982

Size: 203.2 x 177.8cm


  • Estate of the artist, New York.

  • Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

  • Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1997.

Estimate: US$6,000,000 - 8,000,000

Hammered Price: US$12,400,000

Price realised: US$14,262,500

Gilbert Stuart(1755-1828)'George Washington (Vaughan type)'

Lot no.: 440

Painted: 1795年

Size: 74 x 61.3cm


  • Alexander Scott (1764-1810), Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

  • Mary (Slough) Scott Snyder (1769-1823), Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wife of the above.

  • Major Edward Brien (1769-1816), County Tyrone, Ireland and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above.

  • Dorothy (Hand) Brien (1777-1862), Lancaster, Pennsylvania, wife of the above, by descent.

  • Sarah Bethel (Brien) Rogers (1810-1886), Lancaster, Pennsylvania, daughter of the above, by descent.

  • Edward Reilly (1834-1889), Lancaster, Pennsylvania; New Haven, Connecticut; and New York, son-in-law of the above, acquired from the above.

  • Anna Russum (Rogers) Reilly (b. 1829), Lancaster, Pennsylvania; New Haven, Connecticut; New York; and Trenton, New Jersey, wife of the above, gift from the above.

  • Edith Reilly (Mrs. John Stockton Hough), daughter of the above, gift from the above.

  • Charles Allen Munn (1859-1924), New York and Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, acquired from the above, 1907.

  • Augusta (Munn) Tilney (1884-1959), niece of the above and her husband, Israel Sheldon Tilney (1882-1979), New York; Llewellyn Park, New Jersey; and Palm Beach, Florida, by bequest.

  • M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1946.

  • John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), Kykuit, Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, New York, acquired from the above, 1946.

  • Gift to the late owners from the above, 1954.

Estimate: US$800,000 - 1,200,000

Hammered price: US$10,000,000

Price realised: US$11,562,500

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) ‘The Rivals’

Lot no.: 424

Painted: 1931

Size: 74 x 61.3cm


  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., New York, acquired from the artist, 1931.

  • Gift to the late owners from the above, 1941.

Estimate: US$5,000,000 - 7,000,000

Hammered price: US$8,400,000

Price realised: US$9,762,500


Auction Summary

Auction house: Christie’s New York

Sale: The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: Art of the Americas, Evening Sale

Sale date: 2018/5/9

Lots offered: 41

Sold by lots: 100%

Sale total: US$106,883,500