Christie’s Has Revealed 15 Masterpieces for Sale From Paul Allen’s Collection, Including Three Works Estimated at $100 Million Each
A few weeks after revealing that it had won the consignment of what will likely be the most expensive collection the art market has ever seen at auction, Christie’s rolled out more than a dozen additional highlights.
The collection in question hails from late Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen, and counts a total of roughly 150 works that are expected to fetch an unprecedented $1 billion in two separate live auctions starting November 9. The sales will offer a “comprehensive study of the art-historical canon,” according to a statement from Christie’s.
The unveiling of the collection has been more guarded and drawn out than any in recent memory. The initial announcement included two highlights: a $100 million-plus Paul Cézanne landscape and a $50 million Jasper Johns painting.
Since then, the art world has been guessing (and scouring old museum catalogues) to find out what else in Allen’s star-studded collection made the cut. Now, the specifics on 15 more works have been revealed, with most of the works with “estimate on request” prices going well into nosebleed market territory.
Three of the works—a Suerat and a Van Gogh, as well as the previously announced Cézanne—have estimates above $100 million each. Two others, a Klimt and a Gauguin, carry estimates of at least $90 million each.
“Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection,” as Christie’s has titled the offering, presents art spanning 500 years, reflecting the depth and range of Allen’s tastes. All of the proceeds will be dedicated to philanthropic causes in line with Allen’s wishes, according to Christie’s.
Allen began publicly sharing works from his collection in the late 1990s through often-anonymous loans to museums around the world. At the time of his death, he was the world’s 27th richest person.
“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 was drawn to artists who shared his genius for seeing our world in new ways,” said Marc Porter, Christie’s chairman of Americas, in a statement,
The paintings on offer include Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) (1888), with an unpublished estimate in excess of $100 million. The painting, the New York Times reported, passed through the hands of a collector who inspired Proust’s character Charles Swann as well as the organizer of the famous 1913 Armory Show. It is certain to shatter the Pointilist artist’s public auction record of $35.2 million, set way back in 1999.
The gap between the estimates on the many of works and the existing auction records for the artists shows just how rare it is to see art with this level of quality become available all at once, especially in areas of the market where supply is extremely thin.
Paul Gauguin’s Maternité II (1899) has an estimate, also unpublished, in excess of $90 million. The artist’s auction record, set in 2006, is $40 million (though his works have reportedly sold privately for as much as $300 million). The same $90 million estimate is also in place for Gustav Klimt’s Birch Forest (1903). Allen bought the painting, which was originally owned by Klimt portrait subject Adele Bloch-Bauer and her husband, at Christie’s in 2006 for $40.3 million.
Also on offer is Lucian Freud’s Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981–83) with an estimate in excess of $75 million. A rarely seen Van Gogh landscape, Verger avec cyprès (1888), painted in Arles, has an estimate of in excess of $100 million.
Allen’s tastes spanned postwar, Impressionism, Old Masters, and beyond; the sale will as well. A Claude Monet view Waterloo Bridge, soleil voila (1899–1903) has an estimate somewhere above $60 million, and a Venice painting by Edouard Manet, Le Grand Canal à Venise (1874), has an asking price above $50 million.
Three works on offer by Paul Signac, a triptych by Francis Bacon, and a J.M.W. Turner Venice seascape each carry estimates above $20 million. Other highlights include work by Rene Magritte, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
A set of five panels from Jan Brueghel the Younger, collectively entitled “The Five Senses,” carries an estimate of $4 million to $6 million.
The previously announced Cézanne landscape, La montagne Sainte-Victoire (1888–90), carries an unpublished estimate of $120 million, making it the priciest work of the group. According to the Artnet Price Database, the same work sold at Phillips, de Pury, & Luxembourg (now Phillips) in 2001 for $38.5 million. The artist’s auction record currently stands at $60.5 million, set way back in 1999.
Jasper Johns’s Small False Start (1960) last hit the block in 1989, when it fetched $4.1 million. Important works by Johns rarely come to auction; the artist’s public record, set in 2014, is $36 million for a flag painting from 1983. Privately, one 1958 work by Johns sold for as much as $110 million in 2010.
As the art-market newsletter The Canvas noted, the competition for the right to sell Allen’s collection was fierce but also, in keeping with the discreet way Allen is said to have collected art during his lifetime, subject to extraordinarily strict nondisclosure agreements.
The highlights will go on a worldwide tour ahead of the November auction, traveling to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Taipei, Shanghai, and London before returning to New York City ahead of the sales.
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