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Going once, Going twice… Sold!

The most spectacular auctions in the world.

By Lutz Deckwerth

The painting ‚Odalisque couchee aux magnolias‘ by Henri Matisse went under the hammer at the Rockefeller Auction

Around the world, almost any commodity can go under the hammer, and then it’s “going once, going twice… sold!”. Probably the most expensive auction of all time was the auction of David Rockefeller’s art collection in 2018. Whether paintings by Picasso, Monet or Matisse, the bids skyrocketed blow by blow. The art collection of US billionaire David Rockefeller, who died on 20 March 2017, broke the world record for the most expensive auction of a private collection on the very first day. It surpassed the auction of the collection of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent At the auction of Rockefeller’s art treasures, Christie’s auction house in New York achieved the gigantic record sum of $830 million. The collection belonging to Yves Saint Laurent had fetched €373 million in Paris in 2009. The proceeds of the Rockefeller auction were also donated in part to social projects, as stipulated in his will.

History of auctions
“Going once, going twice…sold!” – once the hammer goes down, it is all over. But it was not always like this. After the exchanging goods, auctions are one of the oldest forms of trade in history. It was the Romans who officially introduced the auction as a form of trade. However, they did not sell the goods under the hammer, but under the spear. In the 5th century BC, Herodotus writes about the oldest auctions known to us. In the villages of Mesopotamia, a marriage market was held once a year, at which young girls were auctioned off. Among the coveted items at auctions were also houses, land, food, animals, plants, clothing and even art, jewellery and antiques. The haggling of slaves also dominated auctions for centuries.
Today, there are many types of auctions. Major auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s have more recently relied on live online auctions. German customs has its own auction site at www.zoll-auktion.de, where they offer seized property belonging to criminals, from Ferraris to diamond jewellery and even their own discarded vehicles. In Germany, there is even a TV channel, 1-2-3.tv, which holds various categories of auction all day, from fashion and accessories to furniture and home textiles to DIY and gardening.

The most expensive painting sold at auction
Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, also known as the “Saviour of the World”, is the world’s most expensive painting ever sold at auction. In 2017, the painting depicting Jesus Christ was sold at Christie’s auction house in New York for $450 million. Since then, there has been no trace of the masterpiece. There were brief rumours that the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority had bought the painting at auction, and that it was to be displayed in the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. But the painting never appeared. Meanwhile, there are still doubts about whether the oil painting, which was created around 1500, was even painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Some experts believe that Da Vinci did not paint the work himself. It is possible that he only provided the overall design and some detailed studies and that his students used his ideas for this painting. Since this most expensive auction of a painting, the “Salvator Mundi” has not appeared again.

Salvator mundi – the most expensive painting ever sold at auction

The most expensive car sold at auction
As was to be expected, a Ferrari leads the list of the most expensive cars sold at auction to date. However, it was not the car brand that drove the price up, but the car’s history. The 250 GTO changed hands at auction in 2018, and previously, it had been the dream car of former Microsoft chief developer Gregory Whitten. The car fetched a price of $48.4 million. The racing GTO has a historic chassis number, 3413GT. Not only did the US racing driver Phil Hill drive the car in trials in 1962, but the Italian racing driver Edoardo Lualdi-Gabardi won the Italian mountain championship with it several times. The third GTO RM ever built was auctioned by the auction house Sotheby’s on 24 and 25 August 2018 in Monterey at the noble Golf Club of Pebble Beach at the time of the historic races at the Laguna Seca racetrack. You just have to ensure the right venue for an auction to achieve top prices.

The Ferrari 250 GTO – the dream car owned by former Microsoft chief developer Gregory Whitten

Wristwatch shatters record price
A rather plain wristwatch has achieved a record price of almost $18 million at an auction in New York. The reason is probably its former owner: American acting legend Paul Newman. A telephone bidder bought the “Paul Newman Rolex Daytona” for $17.75 million at the Philipps auction house in 2017. According to Philipps, this was the highest price ever achieved for a wristwatch at auction. The watch has an interesting history: Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward had given the watch to the actor in the early 1970s. At that time, Paul Newman had discovered his love of racing. On the back of the Rolex is an engraving: “Drive carefully. Me”.

Most expensive handbag in the world sold at auction
Crocodile leather and buckles made of 18-carat gold and handles with a total of 205 diamonds – In Hong Kong, a Birkin bag changed hands for €338,000 at Christie’s auction house. And of course this handbag also has a story. It begins with a completely normal flight. The singer and actress Jane Birkin is said to have sat next to the then boss of the French luxury brand Hermès on a flight from Paris to London in 1983. When her belongings fell out of her handbag onto the floor, she allegedly demanded bigger handbags from the Hermès boss. Shortly afterwards, the Kelly bag became a Hermès classic. To this day, this is agreed to be the mother of all so-called It-bags, owned by Duchess Catherine, Ivanka Trump and Kim Kardashian.

The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona breaks all records at 17.75 million US dollars

The most expensive sports shoes in the world
Who would pay almost $2 million for a pair of trainers? Well, they just have to have the right previous owner. They may be 13 years old and a bit worn out, but a pair of Kanye West’s 2021 trainers has changed hands for a record price. The trainers worn by the US rapper at the 2008 Grammy Awards have gone under the hammer for $1.8 million. Sotheby’s in New York announced that this was the highest price ever paid for a pair of trainers at public auction. The size 45-46 shoes, made of black leather, were made exclusively for West’s performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards and marked the beginning of his own shoe line.

A pair of worn trainers go under the hammer for nearly $2 million

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