Art, jewellery and decorative objects that belonged to the late American journalist Barbara Walters brought in $5m over two sales at Bonhams New York, with proceeds set to go toward Walters’s favourite charities.
While the two sales’ combined result fell short of expectations—Bonhams estimated the Walters collection would bring in around $8m in all—the auction house says the live auction sale attracted more bidder registrations than any of their auctions this year.
The live auction on Monday (6 November) included 135 lots, chief among them Walters’s jewellery, her American painting collection, furniture and some designer gowns and handbags. Bonhams said 99% of the lots sold.
Highlights included Childe Hassam’s The Peony Girl (about 1889), Walters’s favourite painting that hung for years in the front hallway of her New York apartment. The work sold for $622,800 with fees against at $1m to $1.5m estimate. Firelight (1893) by Frank W. Benson, which hung above Walters’s fireplace, fetched $381,500 with fees.
Many of the paintings Walters owned have connections to her hometown of Boston. Swan Boat, Boston Public Gardens (mid 1950s) by John Wharf, which shows a scene most Bostonians would be familiar with, was displayed above Walters’s bed and reminded her of her mother, according to Bonhams. The painting fetched $19,200 with fees against a $10,000 to 15,000 estimate.
Walters’s jewellery were among the sale’s most successful lots. The 13.84 carat Harry Winston engagement ring gifted to Walters by her ex-husband, real estate developer and producer Mervyn Lee Adelson, sold for $699,000. A second online sale consisting of 238 lots with lower estimates completely sold out, Bonhams said.
“We're thrilled with the worldwide enthusiasm this collection garnered and are proud to have delivered strong results befitting the enduring legacy of Barbara Walters,” said Bruno Vinciguerra, chief executive of Bonhams and the Bonhams Network.
Walters’s estate has not announced which charities will receive donations from the sales’ proceeds. Before her death last year at age 93, Walters was a major benefactor of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater, and supported groups like the American Foundation for Aids Research and the American Heart Association.