No, we’re not talking about stocks, real estate, or even bitcoins. The estate of David Rockefeller has proved challenging for those who are attempting to distribute the wealth according to his and his wife, Peggy’s wishes. One thing’s for sure; Rockefeller knew what he was doing.

In May, Christie’s will auction off Rockefeller’s collection. It will take at least a week. The Standard Oil Company heir bought art he loved to look at and, while he knew his acquisitions would grow in worth, he lived long enough (passing away at 101) to see the art market roar past anything he’d imagined. He sold a Mark Rothko in 2007 for $73 million that he’d purchased for $10,000 years prior. But then values exploded.

With Rockefeller’s desire to give to charity, it would have made sense over the last few years, to sell much of his vast collection and watch the proceeds go to his favored beneficiaries (11 were named in his trust). But, he wisely didn’t sell leaving the distribution to follow his death. Why? If he’d sold, he’d have immense tax burden considering the acquisition prices of most of his paintings.

Ah, that pesky capital gains. So now the paintings will pay their own way, essentially. That $73 million Rothko was a bargain considering a recent da Vinci sold for $450 million. With masterpieces from Picasso, Matisse, Hopper, Monet, O’Keeffe, Seurat and (one of his favorites) Gauguin, this should be fun to watch. Oh, if your budget is more modest, the lower-priced lots will be offered for sale by Christie’s online.

What about an auction for your nonprofit? Okay, it won’t likely have a Matisse offered but we can think of other more attainable artists’ work. Give us a call.

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