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Mr. Rockefeller, who gave away $20 million to $30 million a year in the last 10 years of his long life, found another way to use philanthropy to make a difference — a big difference, if the sales at Christie’s bring in the $700 million that some auction experts are predicting. The previous record for an auction was set when the collection of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, were sold for $484 million in Paris in 2009.
But that money did not go to charity. Neither did the money from another memorable auction, the sale of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ belongings at Sotheby’s in 1996, when frenzied bidding drove the prices far beyond the presale estimates. Her used BMW sold for $79,500, for example — about four times what Sotheby’s had predicted. (But the money from the auction catalogs that Sotheby’s sold went to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.)
Becky MacGuire, a senior specialist in Chinese export art at Christie’s, said she could not recall a collection Christie’s had sold that was as large or as varied. And everything is what might be described as gently used.