In March 2019, a 42-foot-high billboard was put in on a Park Avenue constructing, unavoidable to passersby, and featured an growing old white man and a barely youthful blonde girl. Most may chalk up the looks of such a factor to some New York oddity, however to anybody within the know, it was the most recent barb in a combat that had shaken Manhattan’s higher crust to its core. The billboard confirmed the true property developer Harry Macklowe and his new spouse, Patricia Landeau, whom Harry had reportedly been having an affair with whereas he was nonetheless married to Linda Macklowe, his spouse of 5 many years.

It was the apex of essentially the most high-profile New York–society divorce since, sigh, Donald and Ivana—one which bought some closing closure Monday when Sotheby’s auctioned off the primary a part of the gathering in a blockbuster sale that introduced in $676.1 million, greater than any single-collection sale within the 277-year historical past of the public sale home.

Harry and Linda had been actual property titans laid low by dangerous bets and a wobbly economic system. However even when his offers for Midtown skyscrapers blew up within the recession and despatched the couple into massive debt, all of the whereas that they had been investing in one thing way more profitable than buildings. Throughout the years when her husband tangled in quite a lot of big-ticket Manhattan actual property transactions, Linda Macklowe labored as a curator, heading up the programming at public artwork areas within the metropolis and Riverside. As soon as the household had the means to start out constructing a set of their very own, Linda began trophy looking, and have become the particular person each supplier wished to promote to.

A gallery proprietor seeks out essentially the most safe assortment, and the Macklowes virtually by no means flipped a piece after they purchased it. The thought was the gathering would keep safe perpetually.

“Often, the supplier with their title on the door wouldn’t rush out of their workplace to greet any random collector if they arrive in unplanned,” mentioned a high-powered adviser within the hours earlier than the sale. “When Linda Macklowe got here in, they might run off of their desk and into the gallery.”

Over many years, the couple meticulously constructed up a shocking assortment of works by useless and canonized Twentieth-century postwar titans, usually cherry-picked from essentially the most storied artwork collections on earth. They purchased a Jackson Pollock and a Robert Rauschenberg beforehand owned by the late Condé Nast president Si Newhouse, a Willem de Kooning as soon as owned by Dallas mega-collector Howard Rachofsky, and a powerful Mark Rothko owned by Houston oil heiress Sarah Campbell Blaffer.

Equally spectacular was the complete belief within the residing artists of the day, and their means to foresee which artworks the following era would deem masterpieces. The Macklowes purchased a piece by Jeff Koons from Worldwide With Monument in 1986, a large Brice Marden immediately from Mary Boone Gallery in 1988, and a gripping, difficult Robert Gober sculpture, Untitled (Butt), from Paula Cooper Gallery in 1994. Not one of the works ever modified fingers once more.

By the point Cy Twombly was making gigantic eye-popping three-paneled works for a present at Gagosian Gallery in 2007, Larry Gagosian may have offered all six of them, every priced at $5 million a pop, to any collector on earth. He offered one to the Macklowes, who put in it of their house till their divorce.

“There was no purpose to suppose this assortment would ever come to public sale,” mentioned an artwork guide to a serious accumulating household. “Which makes it such an unprecedented sale.”

The lengthy street to Sotheby’s took years. The divorce proceedings successfully started within the spring of 2016, however when the hearings started in court docket, the query of the right way to divide the artwork assortment grew to become the primary sticking level within the break up. First, the gathering needed to be formally appraised, and in keeping with court docket paperwork, every crew employed their very own appraiser to evaluate the value of every work. Linda tapped Christopher Gaillard, chief appraiser of Gurr Johns, whereas Harry roped in Elizabeth von Habsburg, managing director of the Winston Artwork Group. 

Moreover, Harry and Linda every employed their very own swashbuckling rainmaker to behave as their very own adviser as they fought it out in court docket. Harry bought Tobias Meyer, the previous Sotheby’s contemporary-art head and principal auctioneer identified for brokering $100 million offers on single footage, and Linda bought Laura Paulson, the previous Christie’s chairman who now heads up Gagosian’s art-advisory arm. Paperwork present that the couple would argue over the worth of a piece, with the quibbling each bit as poisonous because the negotiations over which homes and flats every would win.

After value determinations discovered the horde to be worth anywhere from $625.6 million and $788.7 million, one other artwork market macher, Acquavella director Michael Findlay, parachuted in to behave because the court-appointed “receiver,” whose position was to determine the right way to promote it off for the highest-possible whole. Greater than a 12 months later, Sotheby’s introduced that it had nabbed the prize.


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