• 10 May 2018

From May 7th to May 11th, Christie’s sells to auction Modern Art Artworks from the collection of one of the wealthiest and most influential American families of history: the Rockefellers. The sell comes after the death of David Rockfeller in March 2018.

Tiger playing with a tortoise made in 1862 by Eugène Delacroix

Tiger playing with a tortoise, 1862 © Eugène Delacroix

David and Peggy Rockfeller: the powerful billionaire couple

The name Rockfeller has always been associated with one of the most famous self made man in American history. In 1970, the young John D. Rockfeller created Standard Oil. By the early years of the 20th century, the company was already worth billions of dollars. Later on, the family’s descendants invested a significant part of the fortune in the Arts, including Modern Art. Like Henry Clay Frick, J.P Morgan and Andrew Mellon, John D. Rockfeller had a close relationship with a British Art dealer called Joseph Duveen. He built his business by selling European aristocrats’ collections to American millionaires. He even said: “Europe has a great deal of Art, and America has a great deal of money.” Even though John D. Rockfeller Junior had rather traditional tastes in Art, his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockfeller on the other hand had an important impact on American museums’ Modern Art collections.

John D. Rockfeller in 1885

John D. Rockfeller, 1885 © The Rockefeller Archive Center

The under-estimated influence of Abby Aldrich Rockfeller

Despite modest incomes and a husband reluctant to Contemporary Art, Abby Aldrich Rockfeller started to collect living Artists’ Artworks in the 20s. With a group of liked minded collectors she was also the founder of what the MoMA is today. Indeed, the idea was to legitimize forms of Art that were booming with Artists who became icons such as Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque or Klee. Abby Aldrich Rockfeller’s actions in favor Modern Art had a great impact on her son David Rockfeller. Alfred Barr, Abby Aldrich Rockfeller’s mentor, kept on advising her son and Peggy Rockfeller his wife, about the construction of their collection in the 40s. Nevertheless, as opposed to several American collectors, David and Peggy Rockfeller were not attracted by Abstract Expressionism in the early 60s. That being said, David Rockfeller acquired an Artwork of Rothko for 9000 dollars he then sold for 72.8 million dollars in 2007.

Rockfeller Center in New York

Rockfeller Center © Jean-Christophe BENOIST

Christie’s auctions

From May 7th to May 11th 2018 Christie’s organizes one of the one of the most anticipated auctions of the year. The auction includes a part of the 19th and 20th century Art collection of David and Peggy Rockfeller. The total estimation of the Artworks reached 500 million dollars. All profits will go to charities. In fact, before he passed away, David Rockfeller said: “I believe that the creative possibilities presented by beauty in art should inspire us to seek at least equally creative approaches toward achieving a harmonious society.” Among the present Artists in the auction there are Great Masters from Modern and classical Art. As a result, Eugène Delacroix, Giorgio and Henri Matisse are part of the presented Artworks. The quality of the Artworks should enable the auction to get the estimated 500 million dollars.

Read our article about the redistribution of powers of the main American museums here.

Sources : The Guardian and Christie’s