As part of Harry and Linda Macklowe’s bitter divorce, the former couple was forced to sell their massive art collection in a high-bidding auction. The paintings were allegedly sold for over $646 million by Sotheby’s auction house, with another round planned in May.

The auction was allegedly court-ordered by the billionaire couple’s nasty divorce proceedings, where paintings were sold in what a Sotheby’s executive called, “the most valuable single-owner auction ever staged.”

Harry and Linda Macklowe, a real estate developer and an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, agreed to the sale as a way to split the assets of their art collection after a five-year court battle that ended their marriage. The two split in 2016 after over 50 years together when Harry left her for a younger woman, Patricia Lazar-Landeau.

The auction featured Mark Rothko’s “No. 7” for $82.46 million, an Alberto Giacometti sculpture titled “Le Nez” (“The Nose”) that sold for $78.4 million, and Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17, 1951” painting that went for $61.16 million–a new record set for the late-American painter.

Also up for auction in the art collection were paintings by Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Willem de Kooning. Over 65 works were sold in total.

Giacometti’s “Le Nez” sculpture was reportedly sold for a whopping $70 million over the estimated asking price. According to Page Six, Cryptocurrency investor Justin Sun was the buyer.

Both Harry and Linda Macklowe reportedly attended the auction, but separately, according to ArtNet. Harry Macklowe said that he was “very, very pleased and happy” and that he “felt privileged.”

Foreign buyers from all over the world called in, totally 25 countries in attendance. Linda Macklowe had been attempting to block the sale, but was unsuccessful.

“She had an abiding love for abstraction, but she also had a great eye for figuration,” art dealer Andrew Fabricant told The New York Times. “Every single work in here is subtle and unique.”

Fabricant said that Linda Macklowe was the main collector, and said that it was “bittersweet that the collection had to be dispersed in this fashion,” as he helped to sell her paintings.

More known works such as Philip Guston’s pink painting “Strong Light” sold for $24.4 million, while Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild” went for $33 million. Andy Warhol’s “Nine Marilyns” work of actress Marilyn Monroe sold for $47.3 million, and Cy Twombly’s massive “Untitled” painting of red peonies sold for $59 million. Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #44” also sold highly, at $17.7 million.

Museum goers admiring a painting at the Museum of Modern Art by Pablo Picasso, one of the artist's whose work was sold at part of Harry and Linda Macklowe's art collection
Museum goers admiring a painting at the Museum of Modern Art by Pablo Picasso, one of the artists whose work was sold at part of Harry and Linda Macklowe’s art collection. Photo Credit:

Mari-Claudia Jimenez, Sotheby’s chairman and managing director for global fine art, released a statement boasting that, “There is no question that the market raised its hands tonight, not just for masterworks, but in honor of the art of collecting at its highest level.”

“Acquired over the course of half a century, the collection reflects decades of pursuit, honing and refining, driven by immense patience and an innate understanding of quality,” Sotheby’s wrote in the auction’s description.

“The Macklowe Collection stands in a league of its own as the greatest collection of Modern and Contemporary Art ever to come to the market,” said Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi. “The sale will make history.”

According to The New York Times, the collection was estimated at $400 million, $246 million below its final bidding price. Another 100 works are scheduled to be sold in May 2022.

The art auction market had declined a steep 30% drop during the pandemic, with Harry and Linda Macklowe’s art collection providing the business with a much-needed jolt.

“It’s a strong market,” Eugenio Lopez Alonso, a collector and fruit juice heir, told The New York Times on his way out of the auction house on Monday. “Top quality always sells.”