Mellon's Single-Owner Sale Shatters Expectations at Sotheby's

A high-quality mixed bag of mostly 19th- and 20th-century art from the collection of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the late and storied philanthropist and horticulturist, achieved a perfect score at Sotheby’s Monday evening, tallying a robust $158,737,250. All of the 43 lots offered sold, making it, in old-fashioned auction terminology, a “white glove” sale, shattering pre-sale expectations of $82.9-120.1 million. Auctioneer Oliver Barker gamely held the symbolic pair of pristine white gloves afterwards, as a kind of modest trophy.

Estimates are based on hammer price and do not include the sliding scale buyer’s premium set at 25 percent up to and including $100,000, 20 percent up to and including $2 million, and 12 percent of any amount above that.

All of the hammer price proceeds from the sale, officially titled “Property from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon: Masterworks,” benefit the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, a charitable foundation established by Mrs. Mellon in memory of her enterprising father, Gerard B. Lambert, who founded Lambert pharmaceuticals and invented Listerine.

Twenty-four of the 43 lots that sold made over a million dollars and of those, six exceeded five million dollars.

Though the subject of a long New York Times obituary at her death at age 103 in March, it was Paul Mellon, Bunny’s late husband, whose father, Andrew W. Mellon, founded the National Gallery of Art in Washington, who was the big game art collector in the family. Ultimately, Paul Mellon donated 913 works to the National Gallery as well as establishing the masterpiece packed Yale Center for British Art.

For the complete story by Judd Tully please visit Art Info here.