It was a divorce for the history books.
The split of real-estate billionaire Harry Macklowe and his ex-wife Linda led to the richest night of art sales in Sotheby’s history on Monday, in a court-ordered auction to divide their assets.
When the final hammer came down, 35 lots of the embattled couple’s blue chip art, acquired over some 50 years, sold for $676 million.
But the Macklowes, who were married for 57 years, did not exactly celebrate in tandem. An insider told Page Six that Linda Macklowe (who is said to have had the real eye for art) was ensconced in a skybox at the auction, while Harry “worked the floor like a pro . . . He was having the time of his life.”
The source added: “The crazy part about this art sale is that it is only the first half of the collection. The rest comes up for sale in May.”
Though they made a beautiful collecting team, the Macklowes’ marriage was contentious. In her book “The Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons,” journalist Vicky Ward wrote that they have been “heard to disparage each other and their marriage forcibly and publicly.”
While the auction house was packed with elite one-percenters, the real bidding action came over the phone via collectors from 25 countries around the globe. One of them, a mysterious Asian buyer, locked in Mark Rothko’s “No. 7” for a stunning $82.46 million — the auction’s highest sale.
Others who were bidding hard included, reportedly, members of the Qatar and Saudi royal families. A source from the auction told Page Six: “Many of the big pieces went to foreign buyers, and it is a big guessing game who bought which artwork.”Some purchasers, though, were less than secretive. Sources say that hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin bought Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild” for $33 million after a lengthy bidding war.
Cryptocurrency investor Justin Sun claimed via Twitter that he was the buyer of the $78.4 million Giacometti piece “Le Nez.” Sotheby’s reports that it as one of the highest prices ever realized by the artist. Sun plans on donating the work to a foundation that deals in NFTs.
Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17, 1951” set a record for the artist, garnering an eye-opening $61,161,000.
Five collectors, hellbent on acquisition, battled for Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #44,” driving the price to a record $17.7 million, more than double its $8 million high estimate.
Even those who did not have a financial stake in the works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack and Cy Twombly, which all exceeded $50 million, relished the big-money thrill of it all. Art dealer Helly Nahmad, who was there but did not buy anything at the auction, told The Post, “It was like fireworks. It was basically everyone being very enthusiastic and bidding. It was like the Roaring Twenties. That was the vibe.”
Ironically, Ward told The Post, “The art collection was what bonded Harry and Linda. If there had been no art collection they would have never stayed together. Harry absolutely respected her eye.”
But, Ward added, “This was the toxic marriage from hell. The level of vitriol, but at the same time this extraordinary bond, was there. They needed each other and they destroyed each other.”
In 2019, a year after their divorce, Harry married Patricia Lazar-Landeau and adorned a Park Avenue building with a 42-foot-tall billboard depicting the newlyweds’ smiling faces to celebrate their wedding.
Ward maintained that Linda wanted to keep the collection together, even after the divorce, and Harry pressed her to break it up because “she forced him to sell the General Motors Building, which symbolized the apex of his career. This auction is the ultimate tit for tat.”
Other highlights of the auction: Andy Warhol’s “Nine Marilyns” silkscreen from 1962, made shortly after Marilyn Monroe’s death, went for $48.5 million, while the pop artist’s “Sixteen Jackies” tribute to former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy sold for $33.9 million.
It all adds up to a boon for blue-chip collectors. “On a macro level, this is good for art in general,” Helly Nahmad told The Post. “There were bidding wars between serious collectors and also people relocating assets into art, which is a serious asset allocation. On a more specific level, if you own work by artists whose prices set records tonight, that is a good thing — if you like money.”