Van Cliburn

Famed Pianist Van Cliburn’s Effects on Auction Block

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Hundreds of items from the estate of the celebrated U.S. pianist Van Cliburn are scheduled to go up for auction in March.

New York auction house Christie’s has scheduled a March 4-5 auction of the collection. The items were left behind in Cliburn’s Fort Worth-area mansion when he died a year ago.

It will be the second auction of items from the Cliburn estate. Bidders bid more than $4.3 million for 166 lots of antiques, jewelry and other items in May 2012.

Among the items available in this latest bidding is a 144-year-old piano bought in the 1940s by Cliburn’s mother, Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn, and given to her son.

Cliburn’s first-place award at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23 made him an overnight sensation, propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career and helped thaw the Cold War at the height of U.S.-Soviet tensions. In that political climate the Tchaikovsky judges were wary of awarding top prize to a U.S. entrant and sought advice from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

“Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize!”

When Cliburn returned to New York he received a tickertape parade in Lower Manhattan, the first musician to be so honoured, cheered by 100,000 people lining Broadway. His cover story in Time magazine proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia.” He went on to sponsor a coveted international piano award. He played for royalty, heads of state, and every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.


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