Billionaire real estate developer Harry Macklowe and his ex-wife Linda Burg were able to sell the final batch of their art collection for $246.1 million at auction in New York following their bitter divorce.
On Monday night the final batch of artwork belonging to the former couple went for auction at at Sotheby’s New York, including works by Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter.
That combined with the first batch of their shared collection, which was sold off for $676 million in November, means the total of 65 pieces of artwork fetched a total of $922.2 million- making it the most valuable art collection to ever sell at auction according to Sotheby’s.
The now separated couple’s incredible treasure trove of high value work fetched a total of nearly $1 billion four years after their high profile divorce where they fought over their $2 billion wealth after Macklowe left 80-year-old Burg, his wife of 58 years, for Patricia Landeau, a Frenchwoman 17 years younger than him.
Their divorce played out publicly and when Macklowe married Landeau, his mistress of two years, in 2019, he erected a 42-foot-tall billboard with portraits of himself and the Frenchwoman on the side of the building at 432 Park Avenue.
But after their highly publicized and stormy separation, a judge ordered the sale of the 65-piece collection after the former couple failed to agree on their value, with the remaining 30 works to be sold in May.
Burg (left in 2014) filed for divorce in 2016, after learning that Harry had been putting his French mistress Patricia (right on their wedding day in 2019), who is in her early 60s, up for at least two years in another property
Their divorce played out publicly and when Macklowe married Landeau, his mistress of two years, in 2019, he erected a 42-foot-tall billboard with portraits of himself and the Frenchwoman on the side of the building at 432 Park Avenue
It surpassed the record set by the Rockefeller collection sold in 2018 at Christie’s for $835 million.
Led by auctioneer Oliver Barker, the highest selling piece sold on Monday was a 1960 Mark Rothko field painting- which went for a total of $48 million.
Also sold was Gerhard Richter’s 1975 Seascape painting, which went for $30.2 million, a 1986 Andy Warhol self portrait which went for $18.7 million, and Cy Twombly’s 1960 Synopsis of a Battle painting that went for $15.3 million with premiums, Bloomberg reported.
Back in November pieces by artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Picasso and Giacometti sold for $676 million – a record in one night for Sotheby’s in New York.
That included a painting by Rothko entitled ‘N ° 7’ was the most expensive item of the evening after it sold for $82.5million.
It was closely followed by a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti entitled ‘Le Nez’ – or ‘The Nose’ – which sold for $78.4million.
Both works were purchased remotely by Asian collectors, Sotheby’s said.
Macklowe married Patricia Landeau, 67, in 2019 in Brooklyn, after erecting a a 42-foot-tall message to everyone in Manhattan, including Burg, that he’d found a new woman.
Macklowe installed portraits of himself and Patricia on the side of the building at 432 Park Avenue, which includes a floor of luxury living space that was hotly contested in his split with Burg.
In the end, Harry got to keep the multi-unit located on the 78th floor at the corner of Park Avenue and East 56th Street and is now decorating it the building as he sees fit.
At the time, Macklowe told The New York Times: ‘Since I wasn’t getting married during the summer in the Hamptons, I wasn’t able to hire an airplane with a banner to go up and down the shoreline.
‘I thought: ‘I own a building. Why don’t I just hang a banner from my own building?”
But passersby expressed their embarrassment for Macklowe’s wives. ‘Is it romantic? No, because I think he’s doing it more for himself than for her. He’s doing it as a F.U. to his ex-wife,’ said one woman at the time. ‘It’s your ego if you’ve gotta make your head that big,’ said another.
Burg filed for divorce in 2016, after learning that Harry had been putting his French mistress Patricia, who is in her early 60s, up for at least two years in another property, not far from the conspicuous display.
Their divorce was messy and the battle highlighted the fabulous lifestyle enjoyed by the uber-wealthy real estate magnates – including Macklowe’s $41million superyacht Unfurled.
Divorce lawyers for Burg claimed in court that Macklowe had not paid taxes since 1983 and despite the Macklowes being worth up to an estimated $2 billion, lawyers for Macklowe tried to downplay his wealth in 2017. They insisted he was worth negative $400million. Linda’s team said he used accounting tricks to hide his true value.
Harry and Linda owned a palatial Plaza home, and a multi-million-dollar estate in East Hampton on coveted Georgica Pond, where neighbors include Steven Spielberg and Ron Perelman.
The Macklowes have had their property for nearly 30 years, and it includes a pool, main residence and, according to aerial photographs, an additional building; property site Zillow.com lists the off-market value for the estate at $7.6million.
After Harry informed Linda he was leaving her for Ms Landeau, president of the French Friends of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the New York Post reported that he also shelled out nearly $11million for another home on Georgica Pond – across the water from the woman he’s trying to divorce.
And the Macklowe homes in their beloved Manhattan are nothing short of New York City royalty. Ten years ago, they bought the 7th floor of the Plaza Hotel for $52million – making it the most expensive apartment in New York at the time. (The floor actually contained seven apartments, which they gutted and renovated.) Now it comprises a 14,000-square-foot condo with its own art gallery, dressing room, maid’s room, library and 54 windows.
The couple – predictably – feuded about the value of the Plaza digs, and Linda insisted it’s worth $55million and Harry claiming it’s worth nearly double that amount.
Their extravagant assets aren’t limited to property, however; Linda has also amassed an art collection that is so massive that she has to keep many pieces in storage. A trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim – an honor she secured after donating $2.5million to the museum – Linda has been carefully curating and increasing her collection for decades, including works by artists such as Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Andy Warhol and Gerard Richter.
Author Vicky Ward, in her 2014 book The Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons, quoted a friend of Linda’s as describing her passion for art as an ‘obsession for all the right reasons … it truly began to be the dominant, driving force in her life.’
Earlier in their marriage, if Linda ‘liked something, she would make a commitment, and then she’d bring Harry by later to see it,’ her friend and confidant, art dealer Andrew Fabricant, says in Ward’s book. ‘And then a decision would be made.’
Harry had a different interest in the art, Ms Ward writes, quoting an art advisor: ‘Harry loves [bidding at auction] for the theater, for the social aspects, ’cause everybody’s there. And he likes to be seen out.’
‘An assistant helps her hang the artwork in their homes, schemed so minimalistically that the decor has been described by one regular visitor as ‘the bible by Florence Knoll … You could have opthalmological surgery on any given surface,’ Ms Ward writes. ‘Liz, their daughter, has been heard to joke that the kitchens in the Macklowe homes serve but one peculiar purpose: ‘My mother goes in there to open her mail.’
Following the Macklowes’ purchase of the Plaza property in 2007, Ward writes, the couple began entertaining and showing off their art in their new apartment, giving a party every spring for 300 people – with the guest list including names such as the Lauders – of Estee Lauder cosmetic fame – and other movers-and-shakers in New York high society.
And while the couple may have had varying interest in – and passion for – art, there was one uniting love that endured throughout their marriage: sailing, particularly their superyachts.
For more than a decade, they devoted themselves to their 112-foot yacht, Unfurled, a sleek and luxurious three-cabin boat from respected Dutch shipyard Royal Huisman – which credited the Macklowes with ‘pushing it to a higher level of custom construction,’ according to MegaYacht News.
Harry and Linda went sailing every summer, and the boat was one of their most prized possessions – but they eventually upgraded, commissioning a 150-foot yacht of the same name from shipyard Vitters which was delivered to them in 2015. The interior designer insisted the ‘exceptional project defies convention in many ways.’
The new Unfurled was a finalist for multiple Showboat Design Awards this year – in addition to winning the World Superyacht Awards 2016 in the category of ‘sailing yacht 40m and above.’
The Macklowes enjoyed spending time together on the water, according to an unnamed friend in Vicky Ward’s book – despite an often fractious relationship; ‘They drive each other crazy and they can’t live without each other,’ Ms Ward quoted a friend as saying.
The couple married in 1959 and had a son and daughter, and Linda seemed to be a behind-the-scenes force in Harry’s real estate deals. ‘In interviews, Harry always referred to his wife as better than him,’ Ms Ward writes. ‘She’s brilliant. She’s just fantastic. I don’t know why she married me, but she’s extraordinary.’
She stuck with Harry though his rollercoaster real estate moves; her husband earned a reputation early on as a risk-taker and a lovable rogue, making deals that left him on the brink of financial collapse multiple times – but always bouncing back. His overnight demolition of welfare hotels in 1985 sparked a backlash that even led to Mayor Ed Koch returning Macklowe’s campaign contributions.