The estate of the late Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and noted art collector, has indicated it will allow “at least” 150 pieces from his collection to go up for auction, with the proceeds going to charity.
The sale could break records for the largest single-day public art auction in modern history if the artworks’ true values come in higher than the initial estimations.
Auction house Christie’s has secured the rights to the collection, which is scheduled to hit the auction block sometime this fall.
The estimated pre-sale value of the entire collection is around $1 billion, which would easily outdo previous sales of large art collections at auction, such as the $922 million collection formerly owned by Harry and Linda Macklowe and sold earlier this year.
However, Christie’s still has its work cut out for it before that happens since the entire collection donated by Allen is still to be cataloged entirely. But Christie’s Americas chairman Marc Porter recently gave the Wall Street Journal a taste of what paintings the public can expect to see at the auction block, including “Small False Start” by Jasper Johns, estimated to be worth at least $50 million all on its own. “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire,” a 19th-century landscape by Paul Cézanne, is expected to be worth even more. The picture may now be valued at more than $100 million, up from its previous sale price of $39 million in 2001.
Before his death in 2018 from non-lymphoma, Hodgkin’s it was claimed that Allen had spent $81 million on a Claude Monet painting just two years before his death.
Throughout his life, he collected artwork at a furious pace. In one interview, he spoke about his vision for what would become of his unique collection after he was gone:
“You must be involved because you adore art in all its forms. and you have absolute confidence that these works will outlive you. You’re just the caretaker for a little while.”
The artworks he amassed are now being sold, and the proceeds will be donated to charity, though the Allen estate has not yet made any official announcements about which groups will be receiving grants.
Allen’s own philanthropic passions during his life included causes like the environment, biomedical research, and homelessness (with a reported $2 billion given altogether), so presumably, the donations from the auction will remain in that vein.