Massive art trove from Macklowe divorce edges closer to auction

NEW YORK — The battle for one of the biggest art collections on the market is about to begin.

Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips were invited to submit proposals to sell the collection of Harry and Linda Macklowe, two octogenarians in the middle of a bitter divorce. A judge ordered the couple’s 65 most valuable works to be sold and the proceeds split.

“It will be a fun event in the spring,” said Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner who represents Harry Macklowe, 82, the billionaire founder of Macklowe Properties Inc.

The trove, which may be worth about $700 million, couldn’t come at a better time for the market. Sales of high-end art at auction declined in the second half of 2019 in large part because of a lack of blockbuster collections and estates that boosted sales in the previous three years. The Rockefeller collection alone brought more than $800 million at Christie’s in 2018.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager ordered the couple to sell their art because they disagreed on what it’s worth. In one instance, valuations differed by $30 million. Michael Findlay, director of Acquavella Galleries and president of the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation, was appointed as a receiver to sell the works on the Macklowes’ behalf.

Findlay didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

Auction house executives said they were invited to view the works this month and submit pitches in February. While it’s not clear when the works will be sold, the next round of major auctions in New York will be in May.

The couple, who began collecting soon after they married in 1959, own works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.