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Investing in Art: The Rockefeller Estate Art Auction

Last update on: Mar 14 2020

Interesting article about the expected $1 billion auction of the art and other valuable from the estate of the late David Rockefeller. One interesting point is that much of the art was purchased for substantially less than today’s estimated value. Another point is that Rockefeller changed his plans for the pieces over time, partly because of the tax law. He decided charities needed the money more than the government or more than they needed the pieces themselves. So, he decided to hold them for life, have his estate sell them free of capital gains tax, and donate the sale proceeds.

Some of the objects were purchased for pennies, compared with their worth now. “I think David expected that the value of a Picasso would increase from 1967,” Johnson says. “Did he think it was going to increase a thousand times? No.”

In 2007, for instance, Rockefeller sold a painting by Mark Rothko at Sotheby’s in New York for almost $73 million. He’d bought it in 1959 for $10,000.

Rockefeller’s wife, Peggy, died in 1996. Together, they’d planned on donating most of their personal wealth to charity. Decades ago, they arranged for 13 works to go to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which was co-founded by his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. But in the long run, Rockefeller determined that most organizations needed his money, not his art.




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