Attending the Brooke Astor Auction Yesterday in NYC

I attended the auction of Brooke Astor’s estate yesterday at Sotheby’s in NYC and left with a beautiful French clock from her home.  The auction was broken up into four parts and is still going on today. (If you can’t make the trip in, you can read about the lots still available here and even watch the auction live from your computer.)  Yesterday’s proceeds alone raised over $8.7 million!

If you aren’t familiar with Brooke Astor, there is a fabulous article written by Pamela Fiori on the Sotheby’s website.  I was born in New York and lived for eight years in Manhattan — and Brooke Astor was a well known presence in the city.  She was a renowned philanthropist who managed the foundation created by her third husband, Vincent Astor.   He was the son of John Jacob Astor IV and the great-great grandson of American’s first multi-millionaire, John Jacob Astor.  She spent much of her life giving away millions to the city of New York.  She famously said, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.”  She was always immaculately dressed and was long considered the grande dame of NYC.  She lived to be 105 and surrounded herself with a menagerie of spectacular collectibles amassed during a privileged life of travel surrounded by kings, queens, presidents and other world leaders.  It’s only fitting that she would choose to have 901 objects from her 14-room Park Avenue duplex and country estate in Briarcliff Manor, Holly Hill, auctioned off with all proceeds going to charity.

A photo I snapped yesterday as I entered the auction. 

A highlight from yesterday was watching the sale of Lot 45 – a painting by British painter John Frederick Lewis (1804-1876) which was estimated to sell between $300,000-$500,000 and ended up going for $1,594,500.  Here is a photo I shot at the close of that lot – please excuse the head in the photo!

Brooke Astor had design greats Albert Hadley and Sister Parrish decorate her homes, but everything I read about Brooke talked about how her own passion for collecting brought life to the rooms.  She was a consummate collector of porcelain, gilded items, things from the Far East, furniture, paintings and all things related to her dogs. When going through the auction catalog, my eye was immediately drawn to this Louis XV Orumulu Mounted Green Stained Horn Clock made in Paris in 1745, which I won in the auction.  I walked away with a little piece of Astor history and look forward to having it hang in a special place!

If you are curious about Holly Hill, take a look at photos here:

Her Park Avenue duplex sold last year for $19 million.   Interestingly enough, the unit was designed by Rosario Candela, who was the architect of and first owner himself of the home my Grandparents lived in – in Westchester. I suppose some things come full circle! (Blog entry to come soon about their home – there’s great story about that! Stay tuned…)  Anyway, the Astor auction is still in session if you want to own a collectible belonging to one of NYC’s great philanthropists!  Enjoy!

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  1. carolyn bradford

    This was fascinating and I’m so glad you did this post! What fun to have a small piece of Astor history! I loved the piece you got…it’s beautiful! I look forward to hearing about the house! Thanks for sharing this!

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