Art on Move After Sale
Wall Street Journal Greater New York Section
by Craig Karmin
February 19, 2011
This townhouse on East 70th Street was sold for $31 million.
An Italian Renaissance-style mansion that houses an art gallery was sold for $31 million this month, down nearly half from the initial asking price but still the second-highest-priced townhouse sale since the end of 2008.
The property on East 70th Street is a former family home that was converted to art space for the Knoedler Gallery. It has been known for the works of post-war and contemporary artists since the gallery moved into the building about 40 years ago, around the time the gallery was acquired by the industrialist Armand Hammer.
Knoedler Gallery, which has operated in several different locations since it opened in 1846, is still showing exhibitions. It's not clear where the gallery will move after the sale. ""We're fully engaged in the process of identifying a new location,"" says Frank Del Deo, the gallery's president and director.
The house was listed at the end of 2009 for $59.5 million. The sellers cut the price to $49.9 million last year and sold it for $31 million, say people familiar with the matter.
Built in 1909, the townhouse is 30 feet wide and about 19,000 square feet. It has a basement that is suitable for use as living quarters, brokers say, an elevator, the original spiral staircase and coffered ceilings.
The buyer's identity is not public but brokers said it was a couple that plan to convert the property back to a single-family home. Brokers suggested it would cost another $6 million or more to do so. The listing broker, Eva Mohr of Sotheby's International Realty, did not respond to requests for comment.
Brokers said the initial asking price was a stretch even during the market boom. Even so, some townhouse specialists said a sale at that amount was a positive development for the thinly traded top end of the Manhattan market.
""When there's a real-life trade, it provides a pricing benchmark people can refer to,"" says Jed Garfield, managing partner at Leslie J. Garfield & Co.
Last year, four townhouses sold for $20 million or more, including the Duke Semans mansion at 1009 Fifth Ave. that billionaire Carlos Slim bought for $44 million.