Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s art collection sells for an unprecedented $1.5 billion


The unprecedented $1.5 billion sale of the late Microsoft MSFT,
Co-founder Paul Allen’s collection of masterpieces on Wednesday night at Christie’s – followed by a strong sale of 95 other works on Thursday – is giving the art market an adrenaline rush.

The results seem to indicate continued strength in art sales, although they also reflect the museum quality of Allen’s collection, and the fact that the works were purchased by the billionaire, who is said to have sought out examples of the most high quality of the world. great artists dating back centuries.

Extract from the archives (October 2018): Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

“The works were just amazing,” says Rachel Rosan, an auction veteran who is now senior director of fine art in New York at global art consultancy Gurr Johns. “It was a special collection and a special sale. It was a very big moment for the art world.

by Georges Seurat The Poseuses, Together – a canvas measuring just 15½ inches by 19¾ inches – which sold for $149.2 million in the evening’s best sale, “was one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever been in front of,” says Rosan.

The final total for just the first of two parts of the collection alone was the “most valuable private collection sale of all time”, according to Christie’s, with five works selling for more than $100 million, hitting record highs. world auctions for Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Gustav Klimt. All proceeds from the sale go to philanthropic causes supported by Allen during his lifetime.

The evening auction, which sold out 100%, also set 20 world records for one stellar piece after another representing the finest examples from some of the world’s most renowned artists. Works by Lucian Freud, Jasper Johns, Paul Signac, Max Ernst and Andrew Wyeth all reached new auction records for these artists.

Of the 60 works in the evening sale, 58.3% sold above their presale estimates according to the hammer price (which does not include fees), according to ArtTactic, an analysis firm. based in London. The company also noted that all lots were guaranteed – meaning that Christie’s or a third party had agreed before the sale to buy the work at a minimum price – with 87% of the guaranteed value funded by a third party.

Rosan said the fact that so many lots have third-party warranties doesn’t seem to crush buyer interest, with many works attracting active auctions. It was less true for the most expensive pieces, with the pieces of Cézanne The Sainte-Victoire Mountainfor example, sell in less than two minutes.

Another 95 lots from Allen’s collection were offered in a second sale that began Thursday morning with most prices at much less stratospheric levels. Results were strong, with many pieces selling well above high estimates, starting with an Alexander Calder that sold for almost $1.9 million above a high estimate of $350,000. Overall, the second auction was also 100% sold.

“There weren’t any bargains to be found at the sale of the day, that’s for sure,” says Morgan Long, managing director of the Fine Art Group in London. This is probably because the auction has been upgraded from the evening sale.

“If you had any doubts about the strength of the art market before [Wednesday] night, he was absolutely put to rest,” Long says.

Among the works sold on Thursday was a 19-foot-tall sculpture of a typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosie van Bruggen, which was displayed outside Christie’s ahead of the sale. The colossal and playful work, created in 1998-99, brought in 8.4 million dollars, fees included.

Even the modestly priced works have attracted attention. Alden Mason’s sweet encounterfrom 1978, sold for $189,000 including fees, well above a high estimate of $8,000, while the very last lot, an Illustration of a Bhagavata Purana series: Krishna killing Bakasurasold for $252,000 including fees, above a high estimate of $50,000.

The Allen auctions took place a week before a series of marquee sales in New York by Sotheby’s and Phillips in addition to Christie’s.

For Rosan, this week’s results are the harbinger of a “very strong sales season this fall”, despite the political and economic uncertainties around the world – perhaps even because of these uncertainties.

“People want tangible assets right now — it’s not going to go away by next week,” Rosan said.

Long believes Allen’s results mean “the best things will sell really well” at the New York marquee sales. But she also thinks auction houses shouldn’t expect daytime sell-outs, which are typically larger than evening auctions and are dominated by more modestly priced works. “It will be back to more business as usual,” Long says.

Sotheby’s predicts its fall season in New York will be its most valuable, with most of the works on offer having not been seen on the market “for a generation”. It includes the collections of David M. Sollinger, who was chairman of the board of trustees of the Whitney Museum of Art, and media giant William S. Paley, whose works had been entrusted to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Sollinger collection of 23 works includes Willem de Kooning Bonding, 1950, with an estimate between 18 and 25 million dollars. by Pablo Picasso Woman in an armchair1927, Joan Miro Woman, stars[1945andAlbertoGiacomettiThree Walking Men (large platter)will also be sold with pre-sale estimates of between $15 million and $20 million each.

The 29 works offered by the Paley Foundation, with a total pre-sale estimate of $70 million, will lead the auction house’s Modern Evening Sale on Monday, November 14. Works include Piet Mondrian Composition No. IIwith an estimate of over $50 million, Henry Moore Reclining Character: Festival sculpture, estimated at over $30 million, and Picasso Guitar on a tablewith an estimate of over $25 million.

The star lot of the Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale on Wednesday 16 November is Andy Warhol’s White disaster (white car accident 19 times), 1963, whose pre-sale estimate exceeds US$80 million. This sale will also include summaries by Willem de Kooning, donated by his family, and Francis Bacon Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud1964, estimated to sell for $30-40 million.

Sotheby’s “The Now” sale of very recent art – which will precede the contemporary art sale next Wednesday – will include works by Yoshitoma Nara, Cecily Brown, Salmon Toor and several female artists, including Jacqueline Humphries, Avery Singer, Charline von Heyl and Anna Weyant.

At Phillips, at Cy Twombly Untitled2005, by the artist Bacchus paintings, with a pre-sale estimate of between $35 million and $45 million, will lead Tuesday’s evening sale, along with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Amy Sherald, Marc Chagall and Warhol.

Continue reading: College-aged Andy Warhol paintings auctioned by Warhola family

Christie’s, meanwhile, will have more great works for sale at its 20th and 21st Century Evening Auction at its back-to-back 20th and 21st Century Evening Sales on Thursday, November 17. Among these, Basquiat’s Sugar Ray Robinsonstarting in 1982, being offered in the region of $35 million.


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