Rock stars: Christie’s trades art auctions for meteorites
Darryl Pitt and other dealers are hoping an upcoming Christie’s auction will send the values of meteorites—yes, cosmic debris—into the stratosphere
More than a hundred meteorites ranging in weight from a few ounces to at least a half-ton will soon conclude their journey from the distant reaches of the solar system to the mainstream of the collectibles universe. On April 20, Christie’s will hold its first live auction devoted exclusively to the extraterrestrial objects.The London event marks what may be just a small step for the auction house but a giant leap for New York’s leading meteorite dealer, Darryl Pitt. A former photographer for Rolling Stone and the owner of a jazz artists’ management agency, he has been one of a tight-knit band of proselytizers who over the years have helped the onetime shooting stars reach an audience beyond meteorite hunters, hobbyists, scientists and museums.
Working from his agency’s office above Times Square, Pitt, 60, has been particularly persuasive regarding the aesthetic value of meteorites. And through auctions and interviews, he has conveyed to newcomers the fascination inherent in objects that are among the oldest in the solar system and the rarest on Earth.
Demonstrating the power the objects can have over the uninitiated, he handed a visitor a chunk of nondescript gray rock marked with white spots. “That’s the oldest matter that mankind can ever touch,” Pitt said, pointing to the flecks of compacted nebular dust or “CAIs”—calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions, which are about 4.6 billion years old. The rock itself was an Allende meteorite, a much-studied variety from a shower that fell in northern Mexico in 1969.
Though he trades with museums and has been credited on research papers for Eureka-moment discoveries that he has passed along to scientists, Pitt has a business interest in promoting meteorites. Some specimens from his private, 650-piece Macovich Collection of Meteorites will be centerpieces in the Christie’s sale. (“Macovich” is Russian for “son of Mack,” referring to Pitt’s late father.)