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


Christie’s sold 60 pieces from the Paul G. Allen Collection on Wednesday night for more than $1.5 billion, as wealthy collectors from all over the world put their worries about the economy and cryptocurrencies aside to purchase “trophy” artworks.

Five paintings sold for more than $100 million. Georges Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble,” which sold for $149.2 million, was the most expensive of the night. Several pieces sold for three or four times their estimates, and Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, and Edward Steichen all set new auction records.

The previous record for the most expensive collection ever sold at auction was set by the Harry and Linda Macklowe collection, which was sold at Sotheby’s for $922 million. The sales total of $1.506 billion broke that record. When another 95 items from the Allen collection go up for auction Thursday morning, the total amount sold will go up even more.

The rush of eight- and nine-figure sales showed that the world’s rich still see masterpiece art as a way to protect themselves from inflation and maybe as a safer way to keep their money than stocks and crypto currencies, which are becoming more volatile. The sale happened on the same day that the Dow dropped more than 600 points and bitcoin fell to its lowest level since November 2020.

The late co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, had a treasure trove of works of art from the past 500 years. Allen signed the Giving Pledge, which means he promised to give at least half of his fortune to charity. All of the money from the sale will go to charity.

Allen had a good eye for good art, which helped him make good investments. In 2006, he paid $40 million for Gustav Klimt’s “Birch Forest.” On Wednesday, it sold for $104 million.

Paul Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” sold for $137.8 million. Vincent van Gogh’s “Verger avec Cypres,” sold for $117 million and set a new record for van Gogh at auction, last set in 1990. Paul Gaugin’s “Maternite II” sold for $105.7 million.

“Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau),” which is thought to be one of Lucian Freud’s best works, sold for $86.3 million. A “Waterloo Bridge” painting by Claude Monet was sold for $64.5 million.

Bidding was strong all over the world. Christie’s specialists bid on the phone for clients in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. Several pieces of art sold for more than their estimates. A famous photo by Edward Steichen of New York’s Flatiron building sold for $11.8 million, beating the estimate of $2 million to $3 million. It is now the second-most expensive photograph ever sold.

“Day Dream,” a painting by Andrew Wyeth, was the subject of a fierce bidding war. It sold for $23.3 million, which was a lot more than the $2 million to $3 million it was thought to be worth. Even though modern art is what most collectors want right now, a few of Allen’s Old Masters sell for eight figures. “Madonna of the Magnificat,” a painting by Botticelli, sold for $48 million.

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