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Botticelli, Manet, Hockney… the art collection of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, sold at auction

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's $1 billion art collection will be the largest in Christie's history.

A sale that may go down in history. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died in 2018 at the age of 65, amassed a remarkable art collection valued at more than $1 billion, and auction house Christie's has announced it will oversee its sale. The auction will feature more than 150 pieces spanning 500 years. The auction, which will take place in November at Christie's in New York, will be the largest in history for a private collection. Proceeds from Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection will go "to charity," as the tech mogul intended.

"This is a major event for the art market and for the art world," said Guillaume Cerutti, director of Christie's. He also noted that the collection "is an inspiration to the art world" and "spans five centuries of great art, from Botticelli to David Hockney." "Paul Allen's very inspiring figure" and dedication to philanthropy make the project "something very special".

Van Gogh, Hopper, Manet, Klimt…

The specifics of the Allen collection have not yet been officially detailed, but the Times reports that Jasper Johns' Small False Start and Paul Cézanne's La Montagne Sainte-Victoire are part of the Allen estate, and could fetch up to $50 million and $100 million respectively. Indeed, the Cézanne work is currently on view at Christie's.

Previous exhibitions have provided glimpses into the Allen collection, including works by J.M.W. Turner, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Edouard Manet, Gustav Klimt and Ed Ruscha, as well as The Five Senses by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Canaletto's The Grand Canal of Venice and the Rialto Bridge from the South.

The 2006 exhibition, Double Take: From Monet to Lichtenstein held at the Paul Allen-founded Museum of Pop Culture (originally Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame), took pieces from Allen's collection at the time and placed them in unusual juxtapositions. These works included pieces by artists already mentioned, as well as Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Max Ernst, Willem de Kooning, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Edgar Degas and many others.

Anonymous buyer of a Monet

In an article reported by Bloomberg, it was revealed that Allen was the anonymous buyer in 2016 of a Monet work, Grainstack, for $81.4 million, an auction previously conducted by Christie's. Over the years, however, Allen's collection has ebbed and flowed; in 2016, he sold a Richter and a Rothko for $25.6 million and $56.2 million, respectively.

Born in Seattle, Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates as a teenager while they were both attending Lakeside School, in part because of their interest in computers. They founded Microsoft in 1975. Although he remained on the board as a major shareholder and retained a consulting position into the 2000s, he resigned from the company in 1983. Allen's other business activities include real estate development, the aerospace industry, and investments in cable television and companies such as Ticketmaster. He also owned the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers.

Written by Michael Zippo

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