Paul Gardner Allen was not only one of the founders of Microsoft, the success of the computer company he created together with Bill Gates led him to be one of the richest men in the world, so much so that over the years he built up an incredible private art collection spanning five hundred years, with works by artists such as Botticelli, Picasso and Van Gogh.
Four years after Allen’s death from lymphoma, the auction of The Paul G. Allen Collection began at Christie’s in New York on the evening of Wednesday 9 November, reaching a total of $1.5 billion, making it the highest-grossing sale in history.
The lots, called by Christie’s historic auctioneer Adrien Meyer, covered the first 61 works in the collection, consisting of 150 masterpieces spanning 500 years of art history. These works multiplied the initial estimate, with Georges Seurat’s work “Les poseuses, ensemble” selling for $149.24 million.
The $1.5 billion total will go entirely to charity and marks a record for the art market. In fact, it surpassed the $922 million of Harry and Linda Macklowe’s collection, which was sold at Sotheby’s six months ago.
It was not only Seurat’s record that caused a sensation, Paul Cézanne‘s ‘La Montagne Sainte-Victoire’ sold for $138 million (including auction fees), while Van Gogh’s ‘Verger avec Cyprès’ fetched $117 million. 105 million was spent on Gustav Klimt‘s ‘Forest of Betullé’ while Edward Steichen‘s photograph ‘The Flatiron’ narrowly missed out on becoming the most expensive photograph ever with 11.8 million (the record belongs to Man Ray with ‘Le violon d’Ingres’ – 12.4 million).
If the estimate for Paul Gauguin‘s ‘Maternité II’ was 90 million, the last call came in at 106 million, beating all predictions, as it did for almost all the other works by artists such as Canaletto, Manet, O’Keefee, Giacometti, Hockney, Kandinsky and Dali.
Today, Thursday 10 November, the second part of the auction will be staged, with 100 works already on display in New York in recent days.