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From Picasso to Hopper, Rockefellers offer up legendary art at auction

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From Picasso to Hopper, Rockefellers offer up legendary art at auction

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Hector Retamal AFP - Getty Images
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That Miró is no mirage — the work of the Spanish painter Joan Miró will join other masterpieces on the auction block Tuesday as the famously wealthy Rockefeller family offers up a treasure trove of artwork for sale.

The Christie's event is poised to set a record as the biggest estate sale in U.S. history, beating out the $484 million sale in 2009 of art owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

The vast personal art collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller was gathered from their world travels and handed down from previous generations. It includes more than 2,000 items, including modern, impressionist, and American masterpieces, currently on display at Christie's auction house in New York. Many of the works of art have never been seen publicly. The sale will also include jewelry, furniture, ceramics and porcelain, as well as silver.

"All told, the Rockefeller auctions are expected to hit $1 billion, which would be a new high," said Robin Pogrebin, the New York Times' culture reporter. "Bidding is likely to be intense for top lots, namely the Picasso and the Matisse. But half of the sale is online, so it will also be interesting to see how the decorative objects in the Rockefeller collection at lower price points ultimately get disbursed among buyers."

Proceeds will go to more than a dozen charities including the Museum of Modern Art, which was founded by the Rockefeller family.

"Fillette a la Corbeille Fleurie" by Pablo Picasso is seen during a Christie\'s preview presenting the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, in New York on April 27, 2018, to be auctioned May 8-10. Hector Retamal

David Rockefeller began the process of handing over his collection several years ago saying, "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."

Rockefeller, who passed away in in 2017, was the last surviving grandson of industrialist John D. Rockefeller who consolidated the American petroleum industry and founded the Standard Oil Company and became one of America's first billionaires.

Gathered from the many homes the Rockefellers had in New York City, upstate New York and Maine, the haul includes works from legendary artists Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Edward Hopper and Joan Miró.

Highlights include Picasso's "Fillette a la Corbeille Fleurie" (1905), a piece from what's known as the artist's Rose Period estimated at $70 million. The young girl with a basket of red flowers was first purchased by Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo from the artist for $30. It eventually was acquired by the Rockefellers who kept it in the library of their Manhattan home for decades.

"There is always concern that works sold at auction will disappear from public view into private collections," Pogrebin said. "But the Rockefellers have already given much of their best work to MoMA and hopefully some of these works will also end up in the hands of institutions, though that will likely require some hefty financial backing."

"Odalisque couchee aux magnolias" by Henri Matisse is seen during a Christie\'s preview presenting the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, in New York on April 27, 2018, to be auctioned May 8-10. Hector Retamal

Christie's expects bidders to include museum patrons and uber wealthy collectors from around the world.

Monet's "Nymphéas en Fleur" and Henri Matisse's "Odalisque Couchee aux Magnolias" are also well-known masterpieces. "Odalisque" is one of the most prized Matisse works to be sold at auction in decades. Its estimate of $50 million would break the current record of $41 million for a work by Matisse, which was set at the Yves Saint Laurent auction.

"There is no other collection like this anywhere in the world," said Christie's chairman Marc Porter. "It was bought by the Rockefellers at the height of their wealth so they could buy the best works that were coming on the market."

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