Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s art collection surpasses $1.5 billion at auction


Art handlers hold a painting titled “La montagne Sainte-Victoire” by Paul Cezanne (estimate on request: over $120,000,000) during a photo call to highlight the legacy of philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in London on October 14, 2022.

Wiktor Szymanowicz | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Christie’s sold 60 works from the Paul G. Allen collection on Wednesday night for more than $1.5 billion, as wealthy collectors around the world shook off their economic and crypto worries to invest in trophy artwork.

Five paintings broke the $100 million mark, including the evening’s bestseller – “Les Poseuses, Ensemble” by Georges Seurat, which sold for $149.2 million. Several works sold for three or four times their estimate, and several artists set new records at auction, including Vincent van Gogh, Edward Steichen and Gustav Klimt.

The sales total of $1.506 billion shattered the previous record for the most expensive collection ever auctioned, set by the Harry and Linda Macklowe collection that auctioned at Sotheby’s for $922 million. The sales total for the Allen collection is set to rise even higher on Thursday morning, as an additional 95 lots go up for auction.

The flurry of eight- and nine-digit sales suggested the wealthy worldwide still view masterpieces as a hedge against inflation and perhaps a safer store of value than increasingly volatile stocks and cryptocurrencies. The sale came on the same day that the Dow fell more than 600 points and bitcoin plunged to its lowest level since November 2020.

The collection of Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft, was a treasure trove of masterpieces spanning 500 years. All proceeds go to charities, as Allen signed the Giving Pledge promising that he will leave at least half of his fortune to charities.

Allen’s keen eye for great art also resulted in major investments. He bought Gustav Klimt’s “Birch Forest” for $40 million in 2006, and it sold for $104 million on Wednesday.

Paul Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” will be auctioned from Paul Allen’s collection at Christie’s in New York on November 9, 2022.

Robert Frank | CNBC

Paul Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” sold for $137.8 million. Vincent van Gogh’s “Verger avec Cypres” sold for $117 million and set a new record for Van Gogh at auction, most recently in 1990. Paul Gaugin’s “Maternite II” sold for $105.7 million.

Lucian Freud’s “Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau)”, considered one of his greatest masterpieces, sold for $86.3 million. One of Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” paintings cost $64.5 million.

Bidding was strong around the world, with Christie’s specialists bidding by phone on behalf of clients in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. Several works were sold for multiples of their estimates. A famous Edward Steichen photograph of New York’s Flatiron Building sold for $11.8 million, making it the second most expensive photograph ever sold, crushing the $2 million estimate to $3 million.

An Andrew Wyeth painting called “Day Dream” became the subject of a heated bidding war, selling for $23.3 million, well above the $2 million to $3 million estimate. Despite collectors’ current obsession with contemporary art, several of Allen’s old masters reached eight grades. A work by Botticelli called “Madonna of the Magnificat” went for $48 million.

Visitors look at a painting titled “Madonna of the Magnificat” by Alessandro Filipepi, named Sandro Botticelli (estimate on request: over $40,000,000) during a photo call to highlight highlights of the legacy of the philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft to present, Paul G. Allen in London on October 14, 2022.

Wiktor Szymanowicz | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

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