PaperCity Magazine

January 2018- Houston

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Top: Fernand Léger's Untitled (Fireplace Mural), 1939, commissioned by David Rockefeller's brother Nelson Rockefeller, was recently acquired by the MFAH. Above: Henri Matisse's Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, 1923, carries a Christie's auction estimate of $50 million. Below: An Imperial Gilt-Bronze Figure of Amitayus, Chinese Kangxi Period (1662-1722), is estimated at $400,000 to $600,000. 29 LIVING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE But this is not a preview of an auction of a mere billionaire. It's about a couple — David Rockefeller and his wife of more than half a century, patrician Peggy, a woman attuned to nature and green spaces, especially gardens, conservation, and raising purebred Simmental cattle — who went on a major connoisseur mission, extending over decades, to collect the best of the best. Living and flourishing from the era of World War II onward, they were in a position to do so. It was a time when the art world was expanding but was not the super-heated global terrain it is now. Passion and intelligence, more than dollar signs, defined the quest. For the couple in particular, the collecting catalyst was D.R.'s being on the board of MoMA, an institution that his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, co-founded in 1929. (MoMA's sculpture garden is named in her honor; it sits on the footprint of the towering Rockefeller brownstone where David was born in 1915.) Along the way, he and Peggy created a beautiful, lavish lifestyle that was free of empty shopping. The pair, congenially married for nearly 56 years, gravitated toward something more refined. Theirs was the polish of old money, and the last and best of living well. They maintained fully staffed households in each of their four residents: the Upper East Side's double-wide townhouse on E. 65th, where a Rose Period Picasso looked on; a much beloved New England residence, Ringing Point, off the coast of Maine; the grand country retreat Hudson Pines in Pocantico Hills, New York, the seat of the family's original 3,400-acre estate; and the modernist Four Winds, designed by Edward Larabee Barnes, in Columbia County, New York. The Rockefellers investigated and collected Asian masterworks in-depth (D.R.'s brother John D. Rockefeller III founded Asia Society), as well as porcelain and ceramic services of exemplary history and variety that were used for daily mealtime. Then there was the most storied collection of all: Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and modern. The oft relayed tale is true — how the Rockefellers came together with fellow titans to acquire modern paintings owned by Gertrude Stein, passed down to Alice B. Toklas, including the iconic Picasso of 1905, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, which has held court in the couple's Manhattan library since 1968. David and Peggy Rockefeller, 1973 CROSSING THE BLOCK + RAISING THE BAR Now the remains of those very grand days are headed to auction. But there's no sibling in- fighting or clawing for treasures; the kids are amply provided for. The auction offerings, culled from all four houses, will be sold to benefit nearly 10 charities — the Rockefellers' most personal and beloved, from Harvard to MoMA and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. They will be fittingly sold at Rockefeller Center by Christie's, the auction house that astounded us all with its $450 million Leonardo. Prior to that sale, the estimate for this trove was unofficially $650 million, making it not only the most historic, but the richest collection ever on the block. Post da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, one wonders how high it will go. As this story is written, the Rockefeller riches have been on an Asian tour; stops in London and L.A. are also planned. Collectors acutely await the announcement of the Spring 2018 auction dates. There is also a democratic component: The lesser lots are cleverly organized by 11 categories that illuminate the mindset of its owners — Bugs and Beasts, Birds, Japan, Dining, and more — and will be offered online. Objects there might be had for a few hundred dollars, on up. NELSON'S MANTELS The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, got in early on Rockefeller splendors, acquiring its own masterwork, which was a commission by David Rockefeller's brother, Nelson Rockefeller, for his Fifth Avenue penthouse in 1939. Visit the MFAH's Beck Building to view this recent addition to the permanent collection, a fireplace mural by Fernand Léger. Read the back story of how the mantel came to the museum, reuniting with a pendant mantel by Matisse, also from the Nelson Rockefeller collection (this one, on loan from The Lewis Collection), at Follow papercitymag. com for updates on this auction of the century. LEFT: COURTESY CHRISTIE'S. RIGHT, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: COURTESY CHRISTIE'S, PHO- TO ARTHUR LAVINE; COLLECTION MFAH, © ESTATE OF FERNAND LÉGER / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NYC; COURTESY CHRISTIE'S; COURTESY CHRISTIE'S.

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