I often challenge my clients to ask themselves what “legacy” means to them and how that translates to their vision for their family. This past weekend in New York, I paid homage to one of the grandest collecting legacies, that of late David and Peggy Rockefeller, on auction at Christie’s. The auction, hyped for being the largest collection of fine art, decorative arts, china, and furnishings ever to be sold, began last night. A Picasso, famed for being from the artist’s “Rose Period” and being purchased originally by Gertrude Stein, sold for a stunning $115M. A Matisse (below) sold for $80.75M, and one of Monet’s water lilies paintings (below) sold for $84M.
My personal favorite object – one that’s more pedestrian in nature, but still on a grand scale – is a massive picnic trunk, originally given to the Rockefellers by the king of Morocco.
Far more stunning than the sale prices, is the Rockefeller giving legacy. When Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett wanted to challenge other billionaires to increase their giving, they wrote to David Rockefeller, asking that he host the dinner that 14 individuals with a collective net worth of more than $130 billion attend. The result, is The Giving Pledge which now has 175 billionaire subscribers pledging to give more than half of their assets during life or at death to charity. David Rockefeller, having long been known for his philanthropy, already believed in and gave at such levels. Thus, it should come as no surprise that all sale proceeds of the Christie’s auction, expected to bring more than $500M, as well as sales of real estate, are going to be donated to twelve charities. Two of these charities benefit my beloved Maine.
And this is where my small story and that of the Rockefellers intersect. If you were to ask my children what family legacy I have created for them, they would say, in their own words, that it is “a legacy of time and place.” Many of our fondest memories rest in time we have spent together on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where the Rockefellers of past generations and other families donated their land to the public.
Misty mornings spent searching for starfish in tidal pools, afternoons spent plunging into cold ponds, and evenings spent hiking up a mountain for a view of the sunset, all in and around a land of natural beauty that, on a different course of history, might not be open to exploration for a youthful mind’s delight. It was there, watching boats from a harbor pier that the seed of our love of sailing was born. It was there, from a fish tank in the back of small gift shop, that we picked our first Maine lobster dinner. It was there, in the wonder of the landscape, that the natural separate spheres of parent and child, slipped away and we began to see one another as integrated human souls. We unite in our time together, and we unite in our shared experiences, and through that we create our small legacy together.
So, in honor of the David and Peggy Rockefeller giving legacy that is unfolding this week, I urge you to design a legacy for your family, make a plan, and get started.