Amid Scrutiny, Christie’s Cancels Upcoming Heidi Horten Jewelry Sale

The second round of sales of the late heiress’ jewelry was scheduled for November, but the auction house ultimately reconsidered the value of moving forward.

Christie’s announced today that it will not move forward with the November edition of the World of Heidi Horten jewelry sale, acknowledging in a statement that the initial in-person and online auctions of the late heiress’ jewelry “provoked intense scrutiny.”

Jewelry sits behind glass cases in dark room
A selection of jewelry from the “World of Heidi Horten” collection. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

It also, as reported by Observer in early July, provoked backlash. When Christie’s previewed the World of Heidi Horten collection early in 2023, opprobrium soon followed. Horton, who died in 2022 at age 81, inherited nearly $1 billion from her husband Helmut Horten, a German businessman who was a member of the Nazi party and known to have forcefully purchased companies from Jewish business owners in the 1930s.

Initially, critics pointed out that the auction house had done little to disclose the collection’s potential ties to the Nazi-era practice of pressuring Jewish business owners to sell at below market value. The American Jewish Committee urged Christie’s to cancel the auction until it could be determined how much of the collection could be traced back to Nazi victims. The Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded the auction house either cancel the sale or create “exhaustive catalogues” of the lots.

SEE ALSO: Christie’s Faces Continued Fallout from Its Controversial Heidi Horten Auction

Christie’s went ahead with the May auction in Geneva, adding a mention of Helmut Horten’s purchase of “Jewish businesses sold under duress” in the sale’s description and pledging to donate a portion of its proceeds to Holocaust research and education. The Horton Estate’s proceeds were to be donated via foundation to several philanthropic causes, including children’s welfare and access to the arts.

The live and online sales brought in a record $202 million, surpassing the $162 million low estimate and the $137 million realized by the 2011 sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection, but at least some of the organizations earmarked to receive a portion of the auction house’s sale proceeds declined the donation. Not long after, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art canceled a Christie’s conference scheduled for December over the auction house’s decision to host the sale.

While estimates for the second round of World of Heidi Horten jewelry sales suggested new records could be broken, Christie’s ultimately reconsidered the value of moving forward with the auction given the widespread concerns about the collection’s provenance.

“The reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it,” Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s EMEA division, added in a statement.

Amid Scrutiny, Christie’s Cancels Upcoming Heidi Horten Jewelry Sale