Meanwhile, major companies are selling off art that hung in once-busy offices before the pandemic upended everyday life

By Rachel DeSantis
October 08, 2020 01:40 PM
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Waldorf-Astoria New York
Waldorf Astoria
| Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

The Waldorf Astoria New York hotel is offering those who’ve always dreamed of owning a piece of history the chance to do so, with a massive new auction that’ll put thousands of art and furniture pieces up for sale.

The famed hotel, described as a “beacon of timeless glamour” that’s long housed and hosted the rich and famous, is sending more than 15,000 items to the auction block for charity, according to a news release from auction house Kaminski.

“Many of the pieces for auction have been a witness to history, and we are excited to see them find new life in the homes of avid collectors,” said Andrew Miller, CEO of Dajia US, owner and developer of Waldorf Astoria New York.

Some of the many items up for grabs include 19th-century French furniture from 142 Towers suites, plus art, chandeliers and décor from the Bull and Bear bar and La Chine restaurant.

“The range of the auction is really quite extensive,” said Frank Kaminski, CEO and Owner of Kaminski Auctions. “There are pieces from the suites that world leaders, U.S. presidents and celebrities frequented.”

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The hotel opened in 1931, and for years was the pinnacle of luxury in New York City, though it’s been closed for extensive renovations for the past three years.

While many pieces will go up for sale on Oct. 3, select items that have been deemed “historically priceless” will stick around to be displayed once more when the hotel reopens.

Waldorf-Astoria auction
Waldorf-Astoria auction
| Credit: Courtesy Kaminski Auctions
Waldorf-Astoria auction
Waldorf-Astoria auction
| Credit: Courtesy Kaminski Auctions

Those special artifacts include the Spirit of Achievement statue over the Park Avenue entrance, the 1893 World’s Fair Clock in the lobby, and a John F. Kennedy rocking chair.

Also staying put is a 1907 Steinway grand piano that once belonged to Cole Porter, who lived in the hotel from 1934 to 1964.

Online bidding begins on Oct. 3, and a two-week live auction will start on Oct. 17 in Taunton, Massachusetts. All proceeds will go to St. Bartholomew’s Conservancy, which is working to help preserve and restore the exterior and garden of St. Bartholomew’s Church and Community House across the street.

Waldorf-Astoria auction
Waldorf-Astoria auction
| Credit: Courtesy Kaminski Auctions
Waldorf-Astoria auction
Waldorf-Astoria auction
| Credit: Courtesy Kaminski Auctions

Meanwhile, the Waldorf is hardly the only place clearing out its collections.

A recent live-streamed auction hosted by Christie’s saw the $31.85 million sale of Stan, a 67 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, plus works by Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

Other recent sales include about 200 historical works that once belonged to Deutsche Bank, as the company wants to use profits to build up a collection of more contemporary pieces, Reuters reported.

Still, Friedhelm Hütte, head of Arts Deutsche Bank, told Forbes that part of the reason it was selling its pieces from the offices was because with employees working from home amid COVID-19, no one was there to see them.

“The number of branches is becoming less and less,” he said. “That has had an impact on the collection. The idea of our collection has always been art at the workplace.”

The Forbes piece also reported that other major companies, including Italian bank Unicredit and British Airways, have also been selling art that once hung in its hallways or first-class lounges.