Kaufmann House Sale Falls Through

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Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, Calif., completed in 1947, was sold at auction for more than $16 million.

Credit: Christie's Realty International Inc.

Just days after the gavel fell on the Kaufmann House, Richard Neutra's modernist masterpiece in the California desert, the sale unexpectedly fell apart.

On May 13, Christie's sold the house to an anonymous bidder for $16.84 million. But Rik Pike, a spokesman for Christie's, said that the sellers—Elizabeth and Brent Harris—later terminated the contract because the buyer had breached the terms.

Pike did not disclose what terms the buyer had violated. And he said that no decision has been made about whether the house will go to the second-highest bidder, will be auctioned again, or will be sold in some sort of private deal.

Christie's had marketed the Kaufmann House, designed by Neutra in 1946, as a work of art and sold it alongside Warhols and Rothkos. Many experts hailed the sale as a boon to preservation, not only because it attracted an elite group of bidders who were aware of the house's significance, but also because it raised the profile of modernist structures.

Elizabeth Harris remains optimistic, however. "The Kaufmann House is an important piece of history and important to preservation," she wrote in an e-mail. "I am confident that this story will end well."

Read more about the Kaufmann House auction

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