Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s $1 billion art collection is about to be listed at Christie’s | to set a record Auctions News | THE VALUE
Tech mogul Paul Allen, who died in 2018 at the age of 65, was perhaps best credited for bringing Microsoft and PCs into our lives. But what fewer people know is that in addition to his computer talents, he was also a private but omnivorous art collector.
This November, over 150 pieces from his remarkable collection will be auctioned at Christie’s New York, with all proceeds going to philanthropy. Valued at over $1 billion, the auction will be the most expensive art collection ever sold at auction. Only two highlight lots have been announced so far – including a landscape painting by French post-impressionist Cézanne and a work by American abstract expressionist Jasper Johns, which are expected to fetch over $100 million and $50 million respectively.
While the details of the offerings are still being cataloged, The value has looked through the associated auction records and exhibitions to guess what’s on offer.
Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates
Paul Cezanne | La Montagne Sainte Victoire, 65.1 x 81 cm | Expect to sell for over $100 million
Before we introduce the tech tycoon, let’s take a look at previous auction records for private art collections.
In 2009, more than 600 works of art from the collection of legendary designers Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were brought to Christie’s Paris. Led by paintings by Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian, the sale raised $443 million and set the record for most valuable private collection sold at auction.
The record was then renewed in 2018 when Christie’s put the art collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller up for sale in New York. Week-long sales eventually broke the previous record of $835.1 million, with highlight lots including works by Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.
While Christie’s has held the record for more than a decade, Sotheby’s finally beat its main competitor in 2022, thanks to the high-profile divorce of American real estate magnate Harry Macklowe and his ex-wife Linda. As part of their estate settlement, two court-ordered auctions took place in November 2021 and May 2022, taking the current record price to $922 million.
Now that Paul Allen’s collection is valued at more than $1 billion without a premium, Christie’s is bound to reclaim the throne from Sotheby’s.
Paull Allen and Bill Gates are students at Lakeside School
Jasper Johns | Small false star, 55.5 x 46.3 cm | Expect to sell for over $50 million
In the late 1960s, Paul Allen and Bill Gates met at the private Lakeside School in Seattle when Gates was in seventh grade and Allen was two years ahead. Both passionate about computers, the two hit it off and started hanging out, especially when a new computer arrived at their school.
Irresistibly attracted to teletype machines, the two spent all their free time fiddling with any computer they could get their hands on. At that time there was a Sigma mainframe that could be used for data processing at the University of Washington. Allen and Gates were of course keen to try it and decided to venture into the lab with the help of a friend from college.
With computers advancing, Allen and Gates began working together to invent a traffic meter – which ultimately didn’t succeed because they were kicked out of the lab for hogging the teletype machines and interfering with others. Despite being suspended, Allen was grateful for those days, saying in his memoir that Microsoft might not have happened if it weren’t for those days in the lab. In return, Allen funded the university’s computer science school, which is now named after him.
Mark Rothko | Yellow over Purple, 177.2 x 150.8 cm | Paul Allen acquired it in 2000, not sure if it would be auctioned
Paul Gauguin | maternity II, 94.6 x 61 cm | Paul Allen acquired it in 2004, not sure if it would be auctioned
When Gates famously dropped out of Harvard, it was Allen who persuaded him to make that decision. After completing their studies, both concentrated on the development of software and systems; and launched the world famous Microsoft, which made them tens of billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, shortly after reaching the peak of his career, Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 1983 he resigned from his position as chief technologist at Microsoft and remained on the board of directors. Three years later, he formed a private company to manage his business, philanthropic endeavors and multi-billion dollar investment portfolio.
Allen left Microsoft’s board of directors in 2000, taking the position of senior strategy adviser to the company’s management team. He died in 2018 at the age of 65 from cancer-related septic shock, with an estimated net worth at the time of around $20 billion.
Paul Allen used a photo of him playing the guitar as a commemorative photo
Gustav Klimt | birch forest, 110x110cm | Paul Allen acquired it in 2006, not sure if it would be auctioned
In a tribute to Allen, Gates mentioned his childhood friend as such: To understand the philosophy behind Paul’s giving, you need to know one thing about him: Paul has been driven by an incredible curiosity throughout his life.
In fact, many called Allen a polymath whose knowledge and skills spanned a wide range of disciplines. Deeply fascinated by Jimi Hendrix, he not only played guitar for bands, he also acquired his musical hero’s guitars and founded the Museum of Pop Culture in his hometown of Seattle. He was also interested in history and led a research team that spent years searching and finding the USS Indianapolis – a long-lost US Navy cruiser that sank in World War II.
And art was part of Allen’s childhood, introduced to him by his father – a librarian who collected Chinese celadon and hung Georges Rouault’s posters around his home. In the 1990s, Allen began attending auctions and built his large art collection, which is scheduled for auction this November. An avid philanthropist with over $2.6 billion in donations to various sectors, the proceeds from the upcoming auctions will also go to charities according to his wishes.
Listed below are some of Allen’s paintings, either purchased at auction or on loan to museums. From Renaissance master Botticelli to Austrian pride Gustav Klimt and prominent figurative painter Lucian Freud, his collection was filled with blue-chip artworks – although the auction house has not yet announced which will be up for auction.
- Mark Rothko | Yellow over Purple, 177.2 x 150.8 cm | Sotheby’s, 2000, around $1.43 million
- Paul Gauguin | maternity II, 94.6 x 61 cm | Sotheby’s, 2004, around $39.2 million
- Gustav Klimt | birch forest, 110x110cm | Sotheby’s 2006, around $40.3 million
- Sandro Botticelli | The Madonna of the Magnificatabout 63 cm
- Roy Lichtenstein | The kiss
- Georgia O’Keeffe | White Rose with Delphiniums No. 1, 1927approx. 91.5 x 76.2 cm
- Lucian Freud | Large interior, W11 (after Watteau)approx. 185 x 198 cm
Sandro Botticelli | The Madonna of the Magnificat, approx. 63 cm | Paul Allen’s collection, not sure if it would be auctioned
Roy Lichtenstein | The kiss | Paul Allen’s collection, not sure if it would be auctioned
Georgia O’Keeffe | White Rose with Delphiniums No. 1, 1927, approx. 91.5 x 76.2 cm | Paul Allen’s collection, not sure if it would be auctioned
Lucian Freud | Large interior, W11 (after Watteau), approx. 185 x 198 cm | Paul Allen’s collection, not sure if it would be auctioned
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