The art collection of tech mogul Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft who died at the age of 65 in 2018, will be sold at Christie’s in what will be one of the highest-valued single-owner sales ever to come on the open market, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Thursday.
Listed among the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors for more than two decades, Allen amassed a collection worth an estimated $1 billion. The house has not yet announced when Allen’s holdings will hit the block.
Christie’s will sell a group of 150 artworks from Allen’s estate, the collection poised to be the most expensive ever sold at auction, beating out two recent marquee single-owner holdings. It is likely to surpass the $922 million generated by the sale of the court-ordered Macklowe’s collection, sold at Sotheby’s earlier this year, as well as the 2018 sale of David Rockefeller’s collection at Christie’s in 2018, which brought in $835 million.
Allen, whose cause of death was complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, designated his sister Jody Allen as sole executor of his estate. She remains chair of his investment company, Vulcan.
Known primarily as a tech pioneer starting in the mid-’70s, Allen also gained a reputation for being a serious philanthropist and art collector, a vocation around which he was highly discreet. He first appeared on the Top 200 Collectors list in 1997, and held a place there in every edition until his death in 2018. In the 2020 edition, ARTnews predicted that Allen’s collection would soon head to auction.
Among the works to be sold from the collection are Jasper Johns’s 1960 canvas Small False Start, estimated to sell for at least $50 million, and Paul Cézanne’s 1888–90 landscape La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, estimated at around $100 million.
Christie’s America’s chairman Marc Porter said that proceeds from the sale will go to charity. The auction house and representatives of Allen’s estate have not yet disclosed the likely recipients. During his lifetime, Allen distributed $2 billion to causes related to medicine, the environment, and culture. Among his other endeavors in the cultural space are his founding of Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in 2000 and the Seattle Art Fair in 2015.
His wide-ranging collection spanned art-historical eras from Old Masters to Impressionists to modern and contemporary art, representing artists from Canaletto, Botticelli, Jan Brueghel, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat to Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, Ed Ruscha, and David Hockney.
Major works he is known to have bought at auction include Rothko’s 1956 abstraction Yellow Over Purple and Gauguin’s 1899 canvas Maternity II, both of which he purchased in the early 2000s, for $14.3 million and $39.2 million, respectively. In 2006 he bought Gustav Klimt’s 1903 landscape Birch Forest for $40.3 million at Christie’s.
Few major works are known to have been sold from Allen’s holdings. In 2016 Phillips sold Gerhard Richter’s Dϋsenjäger (1953), a realistic painting of an airplane, from Allen’s collection for $25.5 million.