Christie’s Auctioneers have secured the estate of David Rockefeller, the youngest son of American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and art patron Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. This is thought to be the most valuable collection ever sold at auction. The sale will include over 2,000 individual items and spans numerous collecting categories. It will be sold in order to benefit a dozen charities. The sales will be conducted in keeping with David Rockefeller’s pledge to direct the majority of his wealth to philanthropy and provide for the cultural, educational, medical, and environmental causes long supported by both David and Peggy Rockefeller.
The most valuable collection previously offered at auction was the Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé in 2009 at Christie’s Paris which achieved more than US$400 million. This collection is thought to surpass this value.
“Eventually all these objects which have brought so much pleasure to Peggy and me will go out into the world and will again be available to other caretakers who, hopefully, will derive the same satisfaction and joy from them as we have over these past several decades.” – David Rockefeller
The works of art will be sold in a series of dedicated sales in spring 2018 at Christie’s in Rockefeller Center in New York City.
David Rockefeller, Jr. commented: “We are delighted to be partnering with Christie’s to create a significant fundraising opportunity for the philanthropies that are so important to the Rockefeller family. We are proud to fulfill my father’s wish to share with the world the art and objects he and my mother collected over a lifetime together, and use them as means to continue the long legacy of Rockefeller family philanthropy first established by John D. Rockefeller.”
Gathered over a lifetime and handed down from previous generations, the Collection reflects the Rockefeller family’s deep, life-long passion for Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modern works of art, American paintings, English and European furniture, Asian works of art, European ceramics and Chinese export porcelain, silver, and American decorative arts and furniture, among other categories. Select highlights from the collection will tour in advance of the sales to Asia, Europe, and within the United States, with exhibitions, art forums, and a robust program of public and private client events.
Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s CEO, remarked: “We are honored to have been entrusted with this legendary collection. The Rockefeller family name is indelibly linked with arts, culture, business, and philanthropy around the world – and it is a fitting tribute that the auctions will be held at Christie’s New York in the heart of Rockefeller Center. Peggy and David Rockefeller were well-known not only for their monumental art collection but also for their commitment to philanthropy, which has benefitted so many people around the world.”
David Rockefeller (1915-2017) is remembered as one of the United States’ most deeply engaged and influential civic leaders. In the 1950s and 1960s, he spearheaded the rebuilding and revitalization of Wall Street and that area’s emergence as the world’s financial capital and later founded the Partnership for New York City to foster cooperation between the private sector and government. David Rockefeller led Chase Manhattan Bank for more than a decade, successfully expanding the bank’s international operations to more than one hundred countries. As a philanthropist, he provided visionary leadership and financial support to various organizations, serving as chairman for many years of Rockefeller University, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and The Museum of Modern Art. David was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the great industrialist who consolidated the American Petroleum industry and founded the Standard Oil Company in the 19th-century and built a fortune that made him one of America’s first billionaires and his family one of the richest and most influential in the nation’s history. Peggy McGrath Rockefeller (1915-1996), was a dedicated conservationist, a board member of the American Farmland Trust in Washington, and was a founder of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust in Topsham, Maine. David and Peggy married in 1940 and for more than half a century were true partners in family, philanthropy, and art.
The Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection represents two individuals’ extraordinary dialogue with art and the world—a staggering collecting achievement extending across geography, history, and medium. In its breadth and depth, it is unrivaled in modern times, encompassing thousands of works held at the Rockefellers’ residences in Manhattan, Pocantico Hills, the Hudson Valley, Maine, and beyond. It is a testament to David and Peggy’s knowledge, passion, and connoisseurship that they lived surrounded by true masterpieces of the art historical canon.
A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honor, the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, and numerous other awards and honors, David’s philanthropy was rooted in his belief in the power of individuals and communities to create a better world—the continuation of John D. Rockefeller’s, “art of giving.” In 2010, David signed the Giving Pledge, further confirming his plans to direct the majority of his personal wealth to philanthropy. He noted at the time: “Our family continues to be united in the belief that those who have benefited the most from our nation’s economic system have a special responsibility to give back to our society in meaningful ways.”
Designated philanthropies include the David Rockefeller Fund, Rockefeller University, Harvard University, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Council on Foreign Relations, Americas Society, American Farmland Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Stone Barns Restoration Corporation, Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Photo: Peggy and David Rockefeller, May 1973. Photo: Arthur Lavine/Rockefeller Estate