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Christie’s has just sold a Rothko painting for $100 million in a secret sale. here are the details


Christie’s auction house in New York.


A version of this first article appeared in CNBC’s Inside Wealth newsletter with Robert Frank, a weekly guide for wealthy investors and consumers. Register to receive future editions, straight to your inbox.

The Christie’s auction house has just sold a painting for more than $100 million, although the work, the buyer and the seller were officially kept secret.

In an interview with CNBC, CEO Guillaume Cerutti said Christie’s sold a painting in January in a private sale for a price “in excess of $100 million,” although the auction house declined to provide details. details.

Art dealers familiar with the transaction told CNBC it was Mark Rothko’s painting “No. 6 (Purple, Green and Red),” painted in 1951. It was sold by the billionaire and collector Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought the work for 140 million. euros in 2014.

Hedge fund billionaire and Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin purchased the coin from Rybolovlev last month. Griffin, a prominent nine-figure art collector, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel, on CNBC’s Delivering Alpha on September 28, 2022.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

The mysterious nature of the sale, with few details publicly available, highlights the rapid growth of private sales in recent years – a little-noticed and secretive corner of the auction world. In a private sale, a work is presented for possible sale to an auction house, which contacts its best clients and negotiates a deal. Private sales have exploded since the Covid-19 pandemic, as more collectors prefer discreet transactions out of the public eye.

Last year, Christie’s achieved $1.2 billion in private sales, up 49% from pre-pandemic levels and adding to its $5 billion in public auction sales. Auction house Sotheby’s reported $1.2 billion in private sales, up from $1.1 billion in 2022.

Mark Rothko, No. 6 (Purple, Green and Red).

Private sales are particularly effective for coveted masterpieces and can often eclipse top prices at auction. Last year, the most expensive work Christie’s sold at public auction was a water lily painting by Monet, worth $74 million, but Cerutti said he sold one work in a sale private at a higher, undisclosed price.

He added that private sales do particularly well in times of economic uncertainty. Last year, total sales at major auction houses declined by 19 percent, according to ArtTactic.

“(Private sales) are the ideal market to be countercyclical,” he said. “When the market is more difficult with auctions, sellers or consignors may feel that there is a risk for them to not sell the item and therefore, when an item does not sell, it becomes harder to sell it in the coming years. When the market is tougher, private sales usually do better.”

Cerutti also said customers like it “because it’s fast and confidential.” It is also a way for Christie’s to “get closer to the best collectors in the world”.

The $100 million sale could also be a positive sign for the broader art and collectibles market, as Christie’s prepares for its spring sales. His auction of “The Sir Elton John Collection,” featuring more than 900 items from the musician’s former Atlanta home, totaled $20.5 million, more than double the estimate.

The top lot was Banksy’s “Flower Thrower Triptych”, which sold for $1.9 million. A Rolex Daytona wristwatch with a leopard-print dial sold for $176,400, and a pair of silver platform boots sold for $94,500, more than 19 times the lowest estimate. John’s beloved 1990 Bentley Continental sold for $441,000, well above its low estimate of $25,000.

Christie’s said more than 450,000 collectors and fans had browsed the sales online in the weeks leading up to the auction. The live auction attracted nearly a million views from around the world, the auction house said.

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