Highest Bidder

Highest Bidder

  • Alex Brunkhorst
  • 11/17/22

The Art Collection of Paul G. Allen is the Biggest Sale in Auction History

Art from the private collection of the late Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen fetched over $1.6 billion last week to become the largest single-owner sale in auction history.

Mr. Allen’s collection was groundbreaking not only in its value, but in the breadth and scope of its art. The art, which spanned over 500 years and included pieces from the Renaissance period to cutting edge contemporary art, featured artists as diverse as Claude Monet, David Hockney, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andrew Wyeth, Alexander Calder, Jasper Johns, Andrew Steichen, Max Ernst, Jan Brueghel the Younger, as well as many lesser-known names. Unlike many wealthy art collectors who work with art buyers, Mr. Allen was known to be personally involved in choosing all of the works in his collection.  

Jasper Johns' "Small False Start" sold for $55,350,000.

“You know that all these works are going to outlast you,” Mr. Allen expressed a couple of years before his death at the age of 65. “You’re only a temporary custodian of them.”

 Lucian Freud's "Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau)" sold for a record $86 million.

Particularly notable sales in the auction included five paintings which sold for over $100 million each. The top price of the evening was $149.2 million for Georges Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version).” Paul Cézanne's "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" attracted the sale's second highest sale price, fetching almost $137.8 million, and, at $117.2 million, Vincent Van Gogh’s “Verger avec cyprès" was the most expensive Van Gogh painting ever to sell at auction. A 1905 print of a photograph by Edward Steichen, The Flatiron, sold for $11.8 million, a record for a Steichen work and nearly four times Christie’s highest estimate. In total, twenty-four sales achieved artist records.

Gustav Klimt's 1903 work "Birch Forest."

Mr. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018. During his lifetime, he donated more than $3 billion to causes including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.

 Cézanne's "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" attracted the sale's second biggest sale price, fetching almost $137.8 million.

Pursuant to Mr. Allen’s wishes, the estate will dedicate all the proceeds from his art collection to philanthropy.

"Verger avec cyprès" is now the most expensive Van Gogh painting ever to sell at auction.


Alex B. 

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