US$600 million dollars Macklowe art collection from high-profile divorce on Sotheby's auction sale

Harry Macklowe’s divorce from his wife is followed closely by the art world.

After 50 years of marriage, Harry and Linda Burg could not agree how to value the masterpieces. A judge in New York ordered the sale of the collection, which are amongst the former couple’s most priced assets.

The Macklowe Collection, comprising of 65 Modern and Contemporary Art works, will be sold at Sotheby’s New York. 

Major artworks include Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Gerhard Richter and Pablo Picasso. The collection is valued at more than US$600 million dollars – "the highest estimate ever placed on any collection" to be auctioned.

Harry Macklowe and his former wife, Linda 


The Macklowe Collection will rank among the largest private art collections to be auctioned.

David and Peggy Rockefeller's Collection was also estimated at US$600 million dollars. The final sale total fetched US$835 million dollars in 2018. 

Top prices of the series Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (1905), which realised US$115 million dollars and Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur (painted circa 1914-1917), sold for $84,687,500 dollars. 

The Rockefeller’s Collection sale almost doubled the previous record held by the Collection of Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé in 2008, which totalled US$443 million.

Macklowe – Background

Harry Macklowe is an American tycoon, with investments in real estate development in New York.  

He bought General Motors Building for a record US$1.4 billion dollars in 2003. The skyscraper’s value doubled after he persuaded Steve Jobs to build an Apple retail store beneath the building's plaza.

During the peak of the real estate market, Macklowe purchased seven Manhattan skyscrapers for US$6.8 billion dollars in 2007. Most of the funding came from Deutsche Bank’s loans.

Struck by financial crisis and unable to return the loans, the New York investor sold General Motors Building in 2008.

Apple store beneath the General Motors Building's plaza in New York


Sotheby's sale will be divided in two sections – 34 lots will be sold on 15 November this year, and 31 lots will be sold in May 2022.

12 artworks on sale were announced on 9 September, including:

Alberto GiacomettiLe Nez, 1964, Sculpture, US$60,000,000 – 80,000,000

Mark RothkoNo. 7, 1951, Painting, US$60,000,000 – 80,000,000

Andy WarholNine Marilyns, 1962, Painting, US$40,000,000 – 60,000,000

Cy TwomblyUntitled, Painting, 2007, US$40,000,000 – 60,000,000

Gerhard RichterSeestück, 1975, Painting, US$25,000,000 – 35,000,000

Pablo PicassoFigure, 1962, Sculpture, US$15,000,000 – 20,000,000

Andy WarholNine Marilyns, 1962, Estimated Value: US$40,000,000 – 60,000,000

Willem de KooningUntitled XXXIII, 1977, Painting, US$12,000,000 – 18,000,000 

Willem de KooningUntitled IV, 1983, Painting, US$10,000,000 – 15,000,000

Sigmar PolkeRasterbild mit Palmen, 1966, Painting, US$8,000,000 – 12,000,000

Franz KlineCrosstown, 1955, Painting, Estimate on request

Jeff KoonsVest with Aqualung, 1985, Sculpture, Estimate upon request

Brice MardenElements IV, circa 1983-1984, Painting, Estimate upon request

Jeff Koons|Vest with Aqualung, 1985, Estimate upon request

Alberto GiacomettiLe Nez, 1964, Estimated Value: US$60,000,000 – 80,000,000

Giacometti is known for his extremely tall and slender sculptures 

Alberto Giacometti 

Alberto Giacometti's Le Nez (1964) is among the artworks on sale. This version was cast in circa 1964, Le Nez is another example of the Swiss-Italian sculptor questioning human conditions and existentialism. This sculpture is suspended within a cage, evoking a sense of fragility, aggression and tension.

The significance of this sculpture was highlighted when another cast of Le Nez was selected for the cover of the 2018 Giacometti retrospective book. It was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The sculptor's artwork, L'Homme au doigt (1947), was auctioned for US$141.3 million dollars at Christie's in 2015. It was the highest price for any sculpture at auction.

Mark RothkoNo. 7, 1951, Estimated Value: US$60,000,000 – 80,000,000

Mark Rothko experimented with colours on large canvases

Mark Rothko – No. 7

Another artwork featured in the sale is Mark Rothko’s No. 7. Created in 1951, it features bold blocks of green, lavender and burnt orange.

Rothko cultivated his signature style of abstraction during the 1950s. It was exhibited at The Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1951 and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1998.

The artwork was also previously owned by American collector, Sarah Campbell Blaffer (1885-1975). Her collection was one of the most important collections of modern art in the United States during the 20th century, with highlights including Italian Renaissance paintings and Francisco de Goya.

The American painter's artwork, Orange, Red, Yellow (1961), was auctioned for US$86 million dollars at Christie's in 2015. 

Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby's CEO, during the announcement video


The announcement video was broadcasted by Sotheby’s New York, calling the occasion an “historic announcement”. During the video, Charles F. Stewart (CEO), Oliver Barker (Chairman, Europe), Patti Wong (Chairman, Asia) were amongst the seven hosts introducing the Macklowe Collection.

Strong interest from Asia

Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, said that the sale is also closely followed by Asian collectors. She stated that this collection has the provenance that Asian clients want and are entering the field in unprecedented numbers.

Out of top 20 artworks sold by Sotheby’s in 2020, 9 were bought by Asian collectors. The works had a low estimate of US$5 million dollars or more.  

Touring exhibitions of the Macklowe Collection will be held around the world, including:

  • New York: 9 – 12 September 2021
  • Taipei: 17 – 29 September 2021
  • Hong Kong: 7 – 11 October 2021
  • London: 9 – 17 October 2021
  • Los Angeles: 14 – 17 October 2021
  • Paris: 21 – 24 October 2021
  • New York: 5 – 15 November 2021