Strong results for The estate of American icon Barbara Walters
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Strong results for The estate of American icon Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters New York Home. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Bonhams presented the estate of Barbara Walters: American Icon across two sales, live on November 6 and online from October 29 – November 7. The trailblazing broadcaster’s collection fostered much anticipation and international acclaim, achieving top registrations for the live sale and competitive bidding for the online sale. Results from both sales totalled $5 million and as directed by Barbara Walters (1929-2022), a committed philanthropist, the net proceeds of the sale will benefit charities dear to Walters.

“We are privileged to have been entrusted by the Walters family and estate to offer the personal collection of this American icon,” commented Bruno Vinciguerra, CEO of Bonhams and The Bonhams Network. “Our team has been dedicated to presenting every facet of Walters’ unparalleled life through this remarkable collection. 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.”

The collection came from Walters' Upper East Side home where she lived for three decades and presented an impeccable array of jewelry, art, design, as well as cherished objects from her career and personal life. After embarking on a worldwide tour, making stops at Bonhams' salesrooms in Boston, Los Angeles, Paris, London, and Hong Kong, the collection garnered widespread international interest in the lead up to the highly anticipated auction in New York. Crowds of Walters’ fans visited the preview in New York which presented the collection alongside an exhibition that paid tribute to her impressive career.

Barbara Walters: American Icon was 99% sold for the 135-lot live sale. The live sale achieved the highest number of registrations for a US sale this year with registrations coming from 29 different countries. Even more participation turned out for the online sale, with fans eager to acquire something once cherished by Walters at approachable estimates. With competitive bidding and multiple extensions over the final four hours, the 238-lot online sale was 100% sold.

Walters’ impressive collection of fine jewelry, presented in the live sale, achieved white glove results. A highlight of the 94-lot collection was Walters’ engagement ring from Merv Adelson, a Harry Winston Diamond Ring, weighing 13.84 carats, which sold for $699,000.

Walters was on the exclusive list of clients that Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR) selected to wear his unique pieces, creating bespoke designs inspired by the individual. For Walters, JAR created bold and audacious designs which suited her personality. Three bespoke JAR Gemset Earrings sold for $229,100 (lot 93), $229,100 (lot 78), and $203,700 (lot 86).

Personal jewelry pieces saw fervent bidding with admirers of Walters looking for statement pieces worn by the legendary broadcaster. Selling 10x above the low estimate, a Cartier Art Deco Diamond and Gemset Wristwatch achieved $32,000, against an estimate of $5,000-7,000, and a Belle Époque Diamond Bow Brooch (circa 1910) worn to Sir Elton John’s 60th Birthday, sold for $35,840. It is known to be a rare honor to have a custom Harry Winston design and Walters’ Diamond Pendant Necklace with monogrammed letters "BW" went for $14,080, against an estimate of $4,000-7,000.

Walters amassed an impeccable collection of American art and gravitated towards paintings that portrayed idyllic scenes, with many featuring elegant women as the subject. The Peony Girl (circa 1888-1889) by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), was her favorite, as mentioned in her autobiography, and sold for $622,800. The Tenth Street Studio (circa 1884-1915) by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) that hung prominently in her living room, sold for $508,500.

Walters was known for hosting dinner parties in her Mario Buatta-decorated apartment. Her apartment featured classical décor juxtaposed with modern statement pieces and whimsical touches. Highlights offered in the live auction included a Pair of Custom Mario Buatta Chintz Upholstered Armchairs, which sold for $4,480, a Pair of Gilt Metal Ostrich-form Candlesticks, which sold for $6,400, Baccarat Glass Stemware Service, which sold for $5,760, against an estimate of $800-1,200, and a Royal Crown Derby Imari Porcelain Dinner Service, which sold for $5,760, against an estimate of $800-1,200. The online sale brought further surprises, with a set of eight Elizabeth II Silver Pepper Grinders selling for $1,000 against an estimate of $200-400, and a Green Patinated Bronze Figure of Two Poodles selling for nearly $6,000, against an estimate of $500-700.

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