The extensive private art collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is set to fetch a record $1bn (£890m) when it goes to auction next week.
The collection of over 150 masterpieces includes Les Poseuses, Ensemble (small version) by Georges Seurat and the landscape La Montagne Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne, both of which are expected to sell for over $100 million, and Gustav Klimt’s 1903 work Birch Forest, which has an auctioneer’s estimate of $90 million.
The collection, which will be sold by Christie’s for two nights next week, also includes works by Botticelli, Renoir, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and JMW Turner. Allen personally selected all of the works, which span over 500 years, rather than relying on an art buyer to choose them as some billionaires do.
“When you look at a painting, you look into a different country, into someone else’s imagination, how they saw it,” Allen said of his collection when some of his works were exhibited. in 2016.
Christie’s said the sale was ‘on track to be the largest and most exceptional art auction in history’, eclipsing the $922 million made by the sale of the Macklowe Collection in May. , following the divorce of real estate magnate Harry Macklowe from his wife, Linda.
All proceeds will be donated to charity, as stipulated by Allen, who died in 2018 aged 65 from complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Marc Porter, president of Christie’s Americas, said Allen’s collection “brings together masterpieces of philanthropy on an epic scale.”
“It’s hard to imagine this being the result of one man’s passionate pursuit of excellence, but Paul G Allen was indeed a visionary, and he was drawn to artists who shared his genius to see our world in a new way and explain it to us in new ways.
In 2010, when he was the 37th richest person in the world, with an estimated worth of $13.5 billion, Allen pledged to leave the majority of that fortune to charity. The Paul G Allen Family Foundation invests primarily in Pacific Northwest communities—Allen was originally from Seattle—with a focus on regional arts, underserved populations, and the environment.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with childhood friend Bill Gates, donated more than $2.5 billion in his lifetime to help save endangered species, fund bioscience research and new technologies and fund projects to explore the ocean floor.
He was obsessed with the world’s oceans and owned Octopus, a vast explorer-class vessel that was the largest yacht in the world when built in 2003 and had the ability to explore the high seas as well as live a life luxury on the high seas. Octopus was sold for just under €230m (£202m) last year.
A second superyacht owned by Allen was sold on Friday. The 92-metre Tatoosh, which was heavily marketed at the recent Monaco Yacht Show, was sold by superyacht broker Fraser to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed price. It had been listed at $90 million.
Max Carter, Christie’s vice president for 20th and 21st century art, said Allen’s art collection was “like Cézanne’s breathtaking view of the Sainte-Victoire mountain… the top of the mountain” .
“From Brueghel’s The Five Senses and the Venetian imaginings of Turner and Manet, to the late 19th century masterpieces of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Monet, Klimt’s Birch Forest and Freud’s Grand Interior W11 ( according to Watteau), arguably the greatest decor of the past 50 years, the collection is limited only by vision and quality,” he said.