Paul G. Allen at Christie’s

In a year of notable auctions the upcoming sale this November of the collection of Paul G. Allen at Christie’s will surely be one of the most memorable in history. The late billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, who passed away in 2018, was a daring and discriminating collector whose estate encompassed a broad range of artists spanning over 500 years. Expected to bring over one billion in sales, the auction’s proceeds will go entirely to philanthropic causes.

Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), 1888. Oil on canvas
Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), 1888. Oil on canvas, via Christie’s

Three of the paintings each have estimates over 100 million dollars – a Cézanne, a Seurat (above) and a Van Gogh. And while Allen had always admired Impressionism (his first major purchase was Monet’s “Water Lily Pond”), he had a boundless curiosity that defied category or era – in life and art. This was a man who held 43 patents, owned several sports teams, a television and film production company and among many other endeavors, founded the Allen Institute, dedicated to brain and cell science.  In fact, the sale, entitled Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection, reflects his forward thinking approach to everything from technology to art collecting.

Jan Brueghel the Younger, The Five Senses Sight, oil on panel via Christie's
Jan Brueghel the Younger, “The Five Senses: Sight,”, oil on panel via Christie’s

While Allen was always acutely aware of potential value, he also collected with passion and sought artists who were likewise visionary and evoked a personal reaction. As Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s in North and South America, expressed, “It’s hard to imagine that this is 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 for seeing our world in new ways.”

Gustav Klimt Birch Forest 1903 via Christie's
Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903 via Christie’s

The secrecy surrounding the 150 artworks including in the auction was lifted this week when Christie’s highlighted several pieces from the collection. It is a single collection not likely to be seen again anytime soon, from a man of incomparable intellect, insight and innovation. From the Christie’s auction overview: “Bridging over 500 years of history, Mr. Allen sought out art as a means of understanding the world and built a collection that demonstrates the transformative effect of visionaries over centuries. His collection celebrates those who dared to push us forward, the icons of their time who, like Mr. Allen, defied limitations and boldly marched into the future.”

Georgia O'Keeffe, White Rose with Larkspur No 1, 1927 via Christie's
Georgia O’Keeffe, “White Rose with Larkspur No. 1,” 1927 via Christie’s copy

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