Christie’s Cancels Second Part of Heidi Horten Auction

PARIS — Christie’s has canceled the second chapter of “The World of Heidi Horten” sale, the auction house said Friday.

Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the auction house had decided not to proceed with further sales of Horten’s estate as the sale of her jewelry had “provoked intense scrutiny, and the reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it” in a emailed statement.

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The highly unusual move comes after months of controversy regarding the origins of the fortune used by Horton to purchase the jewelry. Organizations representing Holocaust survivors had decried the sale for its connection to the spoliation of Jews during World War II.

Austrian-born Horton, who died in 2020, inherited significant funds upon the 1987 death of her husband Helmut Horten, a German retailer whose department store chain benefited from Nazi-era policies that saw him purchase businesses from Jewish people forced to sell them at low prices.

Following the initial outcry, Christie’s had committed ahead of the May sales to donate “a significant portion of its commission to organizations that contribute to vitally important Holocaust research and education,” adding it would be up to these to communicate further.

A presale estimate for the whole collection placed it at some $150 million but was expected to break records with its catalogue of more than 700 jewels from the likes of Harry Winston, Bulgari and Cartier.

The three May sales totaled $202 million for some 400 lots, with a number of items soundly beating their high estimates, like the “Briolette of India” necklace from Harry Winston, featuring a 90-carat D-color diamond, that went for 6.3 million Swiss francs (or $7.1 million) or the 55-carat “The Star of Africa” ruby and diamond pendant necklace from Harry Winston fetched 2.7 million Swiss francs (just over $3 million), almost twice its initial top price.

The auction house executive confirmed the majority of the value of Horten’s collection was sold in May at a physical auction in Geneva and two online sales, “raising important support for philanthropic causes, including medical research, children’s welfare and access to the arts.“ The Heidi Horten Foundation said proceeds would go toward medical research and toward a Vienna-based museum showcasing the artwork collected by the couple.

The remaining 300 lots were due to be sold in November in Geneva.

In recent years, provenance has become a capital element in the value of jewels and other collectibles put at auction, commanding premiums can see prices go tenfold or more compared to similar unsigned items, according to experts.

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