In a roaring sale that trampled on its presale estimate, Christie’s auctioned off a Velociraptor skeleton during its star-studded 20th and 21st Century Art auction this week for $12.4 million.
The last loss in the sale where the Monets and Rothkos found buyers was a much, much older artifact: an extraordinarily well-preserved one Deinonychus antirrhopus Skeleton.
The now-extinct predator — nicknamed Hector after the Trojan warrior — is almost three meters long and consists of 126 fossilized bones that are approximately 108 to 115 million years old. The presale estimate was $4 million to $6 million.
According to Christie’s, the sale was the first public auction of one Deinonychus Specimen, a term coined in 1969 to mean “terrible claw” – the defining trait of Hector and his ilk.
The skeleton was unearthed during a 2015 dig in Montana’s Wolf Canyon by Jack and Roberta Owen, self-taught dino finders, who struck a deal with the landowner of the ranch where Jack worked, allowing them to dig for fossils. In the event that the Owens uncovered anything, they agreed to split the profits.
“It’s about the hunt; it’s about the find,” said Jack Owen New York Times. “You are the only person in the world who has touched this animal and that is priceless.”
It remains to be seen where the fossil will end up; it was in a private collection prior to its sale and only appeared in a museum exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen.
In March 2022, National Geographic tracked down the whereabouts of Stan, the T. rex that sold at Christie’s in 2020 for a record $31.8 million and revealed he would be the star of a new natural history museum in Abu Dhabi.
Still, many paleontologists and other researchers have opposed auctions of fossils like Hector and Stan because the price tags exceed most museums’ budgets.
Before sale 2020 the Society of Vertebrate Palentology wrote to Christie’s He urged the auction house to “restrict sales to bidders from institutions committed to curating specimens for the public good and perpetuity,” fearing it would be lost to future research if it went into private ones hands would pass.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news, insightful interviews and incisive critical statements that drive the conversation.