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Art from Bunny Mellon collection brings in $158.7 million at auction

Art from Bunny Mellon collection brings in $158.7 million at auction
Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, left, her daughter Eliza Lloyd and husband Paul Mellon attend a preview of the Mellons' collection of English art at the Royal Academy in London in 1964. (Associated Press)

Art from the collection of the late Rachel Lambert Mellon -- known as Bunny Mellon -- brought in a total of $158.7 million at auction Monday. The Sotheby's auction in New York comprised 43 works of art, all of which sold, led by a Mark Rothko painting that went for $39.9 million.

Mellon, who died earlier this year at the age of 103, was the second wife of Paul Mellon, an heir to the Mellon banking fortune. Their art collection consisted of works ranging from the 17th century to contemporary pieces by 20th century masters.

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As a collector, Bunny Mellon showed a special fondness for the works of Mark Rothko and acquired a number of his canvases.

Rothko's "Untitled" from 1970 dates from the end of the artist's career and sold for $39.9 million, more than any other item in the Mellon auction. The piece had been expected to sell for between $15 million and $20 million. Another Rothko painting, "Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)" from 1955, sold for $36.6 million, following expectations of a $20-million to $30-million sale.

Much of the couple's art has been donated to museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The works in Monday's auction were considered to be among the couple's most beloved art and were displayed in their homes.

Bunny Mellon was a philanthropist whose many interests included horticulture. She was wealthy before her marriage to Paul Mellon, as her grandfather was the inventor of Listerine. Paul Mellon died in 1999.

Among the other notable items in Monday's auction were a series of Frank Diebenkorn's paintings including "Ocean Park #89" and "Ocean Park #99" that sold for $9.7 million and $3.6 million, respectively. A Georges Seurat work "Woman Holding a Bouquet" went for $5.3 million.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

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