Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s $1 Billion Art Collection Goes to Auction

Paul Allen’s eclectic art collection—with works by Lichtenstein, Hopper, Monet, O’Keefe and more—hits the block at Christie’s this November

When it comes to art collections, some go for Old Masters like Caravaggio, and some go for modern artists such as Lichtenstein, but late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen liked it all. From the impressionist Monet to impressionist-Cubist Cezanne to Early Renaissance Botticelli to abstract expressionist Jasper Johns. And if you’re the kind of person who traffics in priceless cultural milestones, get those paddle-arms ready, because everything has a price and Allen’s staggering $1 billion collection is hitting the block at Christie’s in November, in what is becoming the biggest single-owner art sale in history, according to Artnet.

In a statement, Christie’s announced that it will offer more than 150 “masterpieces” from Allen’s foundation, which spans more than 500 years of art history, in its “Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection” sale. Proceeds will go to the charities that Allen supported during his life.

“It’s a major event for the art market and for the art world,” Guillaume Cerutti, the chief executive of Christie’s, told the New York Times. “The fact that it embraces five centuries of great art — from Botticelli to David Hockney, plus of course the very inspirational figure of Paul Allen, plus the fact that the sale is dedicated to philanthropy — we are really moved by this extraordinary project we are on. It’s something that’s very special.”

More artists whose work will be featured include David Hockney, Edward Hopper, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georgia O’Keefe and Paul Gauguin. It was revealed after Allen’s death that he was the anonymous buyer in 2016 of the $81.4 million iconic painting of haystacks by Monet, titled Meule.

Allen passed away in 2018 at age 65. His net worth at his death was estimated at $20 billion.

Allen realized that he never really owned his collection, regardless of the money and time he spent to gather the pieces. ”

You have to be doing it because you just love the works,” Allen said in an interview for an exhibition of landscapes from his collection in 2006. “You know that all these works are going to outlast you. You’re only a temporary custodian of them. You have to be doing it because you just love the works… and you know that all these works are going to outlast you.”

His sister, and the executor of his estate, Jody Allen, told in a statement: “To Paul, art was both analytical and emotional. He believed that art expressed a unique view of reality—combining the artist’s inner state and inner eye—in a way that can inspire us all. His collection reflects the diversity of his interests, with their own mystique and beauty.”

Allen and Bill Gates, who were pals at Seattle’s elite Lakeside School, founded Microsoft in an Albuquerque garage in 1975. While Allen left the company in 1983, he stayed on the board until 2000. He left most of his money to charity.

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