At its first dedicated spirits sale in New York, Sotheby’s raised $508,750 on Saturday for charitable causes by selling three high-profile offerings connected to artists of different varieties.
A one-of-a-kind bottle of The Macallan scotch whiskey with a label designed by British Pop artist Peter Blake led the way, with bidding starting at $180,000 before achieving a hammer price of $350,000—for a total of $437,500 including the buyer’s premium. Later in the sale, a bottle of D’USSÉ cognac produced in honor of hip-hop star JAY-Z’s 50th birthday sold for $52,500, and a bottle of Hennessy in an abstract decanter designed by architect Frank Gehry went for $18,750. The three lots were part of a sale with more than 400 other lots that also included offerings from a collection accumulated in the 1980s by the storied South Carolina whiskey collector Bo Johnston.
The Macallan lot marked the continuance of a partnership through which Sotheby’s has auctioned new and vintage offerings from the whiskey brand’s coffers, as well as other bottles consigned for attention-getting sales in a growing spirits category, including a bottle of 1926 Macallan that set a record with a sale price of $1.9 million at a Sotheby’s London auction in 2019. The latest lot was announced as part of a newly minted Anecdotes of Ages collection for which Blake created labels for a 13-bottle series with whiskey from 1967 in hand-blown vessels. Along with one of the bottles, the auction lot also included a print by Blake and a “bespoke” two-day visit for the buyer and a guest to The Macallan distillery in Scotland. The money taken in for it all was earmarked to support the Guggenheim Museum’s diversity, equity, access and inclusion initiatives, including a new “Saturday on the House” program to offer free admission.
In a statement after the auction, Sotheby’s spirits specialist Jonny Fowle said, “Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a staggering increase in demand for prized, rare whiskies—and the strong prices realized during today’s sale are a perfect illustration of this rapidly growing trend.”
Proceeds from the D’USSÉ cognac sale—a 1969 cognac in a diamond-shaped crystal bottle with 24-karat gold leaf wrapping on the neck and JAY-Z’s signature engraved in the glass—went to the rapper’s New York–based Shawn Carter Foundation, a charity conceived, as a mission statement declares, “to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning.” Money from the sale of the Hennessy cognac in a surreally shaped decanter case designed by Frank Gehry went to the Asian American Business Development Center, as part of Hennessy’s “Unfinished Business” initiative to help small businesses with financial challenges incurred during the global pandemic.
In a statement about the sale of the three bottles for charity, Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine, said, “It was exciting to see the worlds of art, design, and rare spirits come together through these exceptional bottles, and we look forward to continuing to present collectors with more superlative spirits through distillery collaborations throughout our 2021 auctions.”