David Redden, Who Brought Ingenuity to the Auction Block, Dies at 75

David Redden, Who Brought Ingenuity to the Auction Block, Dies at 75

One hundred seventy-five cookie jars that belonged to Andy Warhol. The bat that Babe Ruth carried in his final look at Yankee Stadium. A piano plinked by Dooley Wilson, as Sam, in “Casablanca.” The Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery.

David N. Redden, an modern auctioneer and a dapper presence on the podium, bought all of them in a 42-year profession at Sotheby’s. He additionally bought the Magna Carta, James Naismith’s authentic guidelines of basketball, a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence discovered behind a $4 flea-market portray, and the world’s costliest e-book, stamp and coin.

Mr. Redden, who specialised in uncommon manuscripts, collectibles, memorabilia and movie star bric-a-brac — and in addition in producing pleasure round such objects, turning auctions into excessive leisure — died on May 11 at his residence in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 75.

His spouse, Jeannette Redden, mentioned the trigger was problems of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., which he had for 9 years.

As a vice chairman of Sotheby’s, and as its longest-serving auctioneer, Mr. Redden had a contact of P.T. Barnum in his aptitude for dreaming up novel objects to promote and romanticizing them with a narrative that attracted publicity, bidders and easily looky-loos to Sotheby’s galleries on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He organized lots of Sotheby’s most well-known gross sales.

“David Redden had a imaginative and prescient for presenting issues to make them bigger than life,” Benjamin Doller, the chairman of Sotheby’s for the Americas, mentioned in an interview. “He was a fantastic public sale impresario.”

As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Mr. Redden traveled to Star City, Russia, and persuaded the authorities to permit a going-out-of-business sale of house artifacts. Back in New York, he auctioned a capsule, a spacesuit, moon rocks and, audaciously, a analysis rover left behind on the moon. (It bought for $68,500 to an nameless purchaser who wished the bragging rights of possession.)

“The urge to gather shouldn’t be based mostly on the age of objects,” Mr. Redden instructed The New York Times in 1995. “As a small baby, I used to be a passionate collector of rocks, leaves, bark and bugs. Sometimes what’s new is what folks need.”

Perhaps essentially the most well-known occasion of his profession, which he helped to arrange and to gavel down, was the four-day sale in 1996 of the property of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Some 30,000 folks seen the pre-sale shows of furnishings, jewellery and White House knickknacks and snapped up greater than 100,000 catalogs, at $90 in hardcover and $45 in softcover.

Prices, pushed by ecstasies of nostalgia, went by means of the roof. A rocking chair that President John F. Kennedy had used went for $453,000. Arnold Schwarzenegger paid $772,500 for the president’s MacGregor golf golf equipment. A leather-based desk set bought for $189,500.

“They will not be promoting issues,” the Times columnist Clyde Haberman wrote. “They are promoting yesterday, when the world was younger.”

Mr. Redden introduced objects to the public sale block that had by no means traded fingers in such a setting. In the early Nineties, whereas at breakfast, he learn a newspaper article a couple of authorized dispute over an exquisitely preserved Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue that had been dug up in South Dakota.

“He mentioned to me, ‘It ought to go to public sale,’” Ms. Redden, his spouse, recalled. “I mentioned, ‘Why don’t you simply name them up?’” He was in his pajamas, however he did. He obtained the dinosaur man, and so they bought it for $8 million.”

Mr. Redden was additionally a pioneer of web auctions for Sotheby’s. On its web site,, he auctioned the flea market Declaration of Independence in 2000 for $7.4 million, one of many highest costs paid for a doc on the web to that time. The patrons had been the tv producer Norman Lear and David Hayden, a tech entrepreneur.

David Normand Redden was born on Jan. 23, 1949, in Canton, China (now Guangzhou), to Normand and Annabel (Austin) Redden. His father was an American diplomat, and when the Communists took over China later that 12 months, the household escaped by boat down the Pearl River.

“We had been fired on as we left,” David Redden instructed The Times in 2000.

As his father moved from nation to nation for the State Department, David attended grade college in England and secondary college in Rome. (He would retain an English accent from his education all through his life.) He earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the place he studied artwork historical past.

In 1974 he obtained a job as a catalog trainee at Sotheby’s. Six years later he was operating PB-84, a by-product of the public sale home that bought lower-price artwork and antiques.

“I grew to become an auctioneer in a short time in a approach that wouldn’t occur these days: I used to be instructed to go as much as the rostrum and get going,” he mentioned in 2000. “I used to be terrified, so terrified I forgot to write down down the sale costs of the primary 20 heaps I bought.”

In 1978 he married Jeannette Andreasen, an environmentalist. In addition to their residence on Storm King Mountain within the Hudson Valley, the couple resided in a duplex within the former Joseph Pulitzer mansion on East 73rd Street, the place they held dinner events for 14 within the theatrical setting of the rooftop terrace. The house had as soon as been occupied by Roy Chapman Andrews, an explorer who was additionally the director of the American Museum of Natural History.

Besides his spouse, Mr. Redden is survived by a son, Stephen; a daughter, Clare Redden; a brother, Nigel Redden; and a sister, Melanie Redden Whitlock.

In his later years, as A.L.S. restricted his mobility, his management of his muscle mass and his capability to talk, Mr. Redden sought methods to adapt. He communicated by typing on a pc that tracked his eye actions. He had an experimental implant in his mind and underwent intensive coaching geared toward enabling him to regulate a pc utilizing his ideas.

“He was at all times stressed and searching for attention-grabbing new adventures,” Ms. Redden mentioned. “You weren’t uninterested in him.”


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