Sotheby’s Will Sell the $600 Million Collection of Divorcing Couple Harry and Linda Macklowe, the Market’s Most Coveted Consignment in Years

Sotheby's and Christie's both competed fiercely for the consignment, which represents the biggest test of the market since the pandemic.

Harry Macklowe and Linda Macklowe. Photo Patrick McMullan/A. Scott.

The wait is over. The highly anticipated art collection of divorcees Harry and Linda Macklowe is finally heading to auction. 

As expected, Sotheby’s won the coveted trove, which includes major works by Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Cy Twombly. The couple is selling the art as a result of their acrimonious divorce proceedings, which have been dragging on for five years.

Sotheby’s announced the news in a livestreamed event on September 9, calling the collection “historic.” Together, the works are estimated to fetch north of $600 million. They will be sold in two batches in order for the market to absorb multiple pieces by top artists. The first will come in November, the second next May, Sotheby’s said. 

Alberto Giacometti, <i>Le Nez</i> (1947) and Andy Warhol, <i>Nine Marilyns</i> (1962). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez (1947) and Andy Warhol, Nine Marilyns (1962). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The sale will be the biggest test of the 20th century masterpiece market since the pandemic struck. Supply has been scarce in this top tier, with sellers reluctant to consign major works to auction in a moment of global uncertainty. The Macklowe’s holdings represent the most valuable collection to hit the block since the estate of David and Peggy Rockefeller generated $835 million at Christie’s in 2018, becoming the priciest estate ever sold at auction. 

Art represented the lion’s share of the ex-couple’s investments, according to court papers. Of the 165 works in the couple’s holdings, 64 had to be sold, with an estimated value of $625.6 million to $788.7 million.

Because Linda and Harry couldn’t agree on anything, including the valuations of artworks, a judge appointed a third-party administrator, a position known as the receiver, to oversee the dispersal.  

Mark Rothko, <i>No. 7</i> (1951). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

Mark Rothko, No. 7 (1951). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s competed for the collection. The decision mainly came down to the guarantee, which would ensure the Macklowes get paid regardless of whether the works sell or flop, according to people familiar with the matter. Technological infrastructure also played a role. 

“The Macklowe collection stands in a league of its own as the greatest collection of modern and contemporary art ever to come to the market,” said Charlie Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO, in a statement. “It will undoubtedly captivate top collectors from around the world, and the sale will make history as one of the landmark events defining the art market and the history of Sotheby’s over the past 277 years.”

Some of the highlights are on view at Sotheby’s in New York this week ahead of their world marketing tour, which will touch down in Taipei, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Los Angeles. 

Among the priciest works: Giacometti’s sculpture Le Nez, which may fetch $60 million to $80 million, according to Sotheby’s. The bronze drew the most divergent estimates from Harry and Linda Macklowe’s experts, with one valuing it at $35 million and another at $65 million, according to court papers.

Mark Rothko’s No. 7 (1951), the eight-foot-tall canvas featuring horizontal bands of pink, yellow, and orange, is also expected to bring in $60 million to $80 million, Sotheby’s said. The Abstract Expressionist’s auction record is $86.9 million.

Cy Twombly, <i>Untitled</i> (2007). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (2007). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Another highlight is Twombly’s untitled 18-foot-wide canvas depicting peonies from 2007, which carries an estimate of $40 million to $60 million. It will be the first work from the series ever to hit the auction block. The late artist’s auction record is $70.5 million for a “blackboard” painting that sold in 2015.

Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (9 Times) [Nine Marilyns] (1962) was estimated at $40 million to $60 million by Sotheby’s, compared with a $50 million estimate provided in court proceedings.   

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