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The Rockefellers’ treasures go under the hammer

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AFTER the death in 1967 of Alice B. Toklas, longtime partner of Picasso’s patron Gertrude Stein, David Rockefeller made one of the wisest moves of his art-collecting career. The art that Stein had amassed in Paris before the second world war—some of the best paintings Cézanne and Picasso ever produced—has long been considered one of the finest collections of the 20th century. Stein’s heirs wanted it to go to a museum, but Rockefeller, who by then had been a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for two decades, knew it was beyond any institution’s means.

He put together a syndicate, which bought the collection for $6.8m (around $50m today). The group included his brother Nelson, governor of New York; William Paley, chairman of Columbia Broadcasting System; and John Hay “Jock” Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune. Each was to choose one painting for his personal collection, the rest going to museums. They met on a December afternoon…Continue reading

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