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Microsoft cofounder’s artwork collection including Monet and Seurat masterpieces raises a record $1.5 billion at auction—with the proceeds going to charity

November 10, 2022, 11:24 AM UTC
An auctioneer sells Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) in front of a crowd full of bidders.
Works from late Microsoft Co-founder Paul G. Allen's art collection have sold for more than $1.5 billion, marking the biggest art sale in history.
Christie's

Works from the immense private art collection handpicked by late Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen have sold for more than $1.5 billion, marking the biggest art sale in auction history.

Part of Allen’s collection went to auction in New York on Wednesday, with auction house Christie’s overseeing the sale.

In the first leg of the auction, 60 works fetched a total price of $1,506,386,000—establishing Allen’s collection as the most valuable private collection ever, according to Christie’s, and marking “a sale of historic proportions.”

The auction broke the world record halfway through the bidding, during the sale of Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture Femme de Venise III, which went for more than $25 million.

It soared past the previous record of $922 million, which was reached in May when real estate tycoon Harry Macklowe and his wife, Linda, sold off their art collection as part of their divorce proceedings.

Among the artworks sold in the first leg of the Allen Collection auction were masterpieces by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Edouard Manet, with the collection’s works spanning five centuries.

More than 65% of the pieces sold on Wednesday evening secured bids well above their price estimates, with five paintings—including Paul Cezanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire and Vincent van Gogh’s Verger avec cyprès—selling for more than $100 million each. The sale of the latter marked the highest price ever paid for a van Gogh painting.

The night’s highest bid was won for Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), which sold for $149,240,000.

  • An auctioneer sells Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) in front of a crowd full of bidders.

All proceeds from the sale will be donated to charity, honoring the late Allen’s wishes.

The second batch of works from Allen’s collection will go to auction on Thursday evening, with lots including pieces by Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, and Jackson Pollock.

Unlike many wealthy art collectors who hire art buyers to select works for their private collections, Allen personally chose all of the art he owned.

In a statement on Thursday, Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas, said it was “deeply gratifying” the auction house and the Allen Estate had been able to set a world record for the benefit of others.

“Let’s all take a moment to recall that this was made possible by one man’s passionate pursuit of excellence, and his commitment to making the world a better place,” he said.

Max Carter, vice chairman of 20th- and 21st-century art at Christie’s, added that “we may never see this range, quantity, and quality of masterpieces in one private collection again.”

Allen, who started Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, died in 2018.

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