Christie’s Cancels Final Heidi Horten Jewelry Auction
The first sale of jewels from the late heiress’ estate sparked controversy after a report revealed her husband’s Nazi ties.
In their style section from September 5, CNN reports that Christie’s has cancelled the Heidi Horten jewelry auction because of its link to Nazi-era fortune. As reported by Christy Choi, amid ongoing criticism from Jewish advocacy groups and human rights organizations over the source of the Austrian billionaire’s wealth, Christie’s auction house announced Thursday that it has canceled the final part of the controversial sale.
Horten’s former husband, Helmut, first made his fortune in Nazi Germany by buying out Jewish businesses “sold under duress,” Christie’s acknowledged in its sale catalog, having initially described him simply as “a German entrepreneur and businessman” in press releases.
“The sale of the Heidi Horten jewelry collection has provoked intense scrutiny, and the reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it,” Anthea Peers, Christie’s president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement announcing the decision to cancel November’s online sale of around 300 items.
The first three parts of the sale — two live auctions in Geneva, Switzerland and an online sale — realized a combined 179.9 million Swiss francs ($201 million) in May to become the most expensive private jewelry collection ever to sell at auction. (Christie’s had initially predicted that Horten’s entire collection, featuring over 700 jewels, would sell for over $150 million.)
Critics slammed Christie’s for hosting the auction and not explicitly acknowledging how Helmut Horten grew his ten-figure wealth under Nazi Germany’s “Aryanization” laws, which saw Jewish people’s property and assets seized and transferred to non-Jews. The German businessman acquired a number of previously Jewish-owned department stories in this period, and was later credited with introducing Germany’s first supermarket chain.
National Jeweler also published a similar report, including background of the New York Times feature story that pushed Christie’s to think twice about future auctions of this jewelry collection.