Last night, the 81" by 55.5" Mark Rothko painting White Center, owned by David Rockefeller for 47 years, was sold for $72,840,000 at Sotheby's contemporary art auction. The painting's sale broke auction records for both Rothko and contemporary art, and Sotheby's gamble of offering Rockefeller a rumored $46 million guarantee that the painting would see (risky, because the previous Rothko auction record was $22.4 million) seemed to pay off. Rockefeller previously stated that he would use the painting's proceeds for other philanthropic efforts (he originally bought it for $8,500 or $59,000 in today's dollars); he said about the sale, "I am very pleased that it did so well. I'm sorry to see it go.''
There's some question about whether the painting was really worth the $72 million price (the "hammer price" was $65 million, and then commissions are added on). PaceWildentstein, which represents the Rothko estate, dealer Marc Glimcher told Bloomberg News, "While it's a spectacular painting, it's clear the allure of having David Rockefeller's painting in your house is going way beyond what you might otherwise consider reasonable. That kind of thing is becoming irresistible to people.''
As for who bought the painting, the NY Times says that a "mysterious bearded collector in a skybox" was the bidder who won and Sotheby's did not provide any details of his identity. Sotheby's contemporary art sale totaled $254,874,000, under its $265 million estimate; other artists' auction records were made in the sales of paintings by Francis Bacon, Basquiat, and Rauschenberg.