It is set to become the world’s most expensive art collection ever sold, containing masterpieces worth an estimated $1 billion by Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet and David Hockney, collected over the years. decades by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
On Friday, Londoners got a chance to see highlights of the late billionaire’s hoard, which is set to break records when it goes under the hammer in New York next month.
Thirteen of the more than 150 works are on display at Christie’s, King Street, St James’s, ahead of the November 9-10 sale – with all proceeds going to good causes.
Max Carter, vice president of 20th and 21st century art, Americas, at Christie’s, said the works were “not only the most expensive collection ever sold”, but “also the highest quality of masterpieces -d’oeuvre” to be auctioned.
The sale is led by Cézanne’s La montagne Sainte-Victoire, which is valued at over £106million.
Mr Carter said the tech billionaire was “almost unique” as a collector. He said: “When collectors come to us we tend to tell them to collect in concentrated areas where they can have the greatest depth and he has collected in many different areas and at the highest level.
“What attracted him were these artists who looked at the world in a different way – and that could be Kandinsky in the 1920s, it could be Seurat in the 1880s.”
Allen, who died aged 65 in 2018, gave billions to good causes in his lifetime and owned major American football and basketball teams. But Mr Carter said his reputation as an art lover would attract bidders. He said: “There are people for whom his name is synonymous with technological innovation, there are people for whom he is synonymous with sporting achievement at the highest level. And then there are others for whom this person has one of the best eyes of the last 50 years.
He said it was “difficult to imagine another collection of its quality and range”.
Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) by Seurat, made by applying thousands of small dots of paint to the canvas and valued at £88million, was the “finest pointillist painting”, Mr Carter added. “Never in all my years at Christie’s have I seen anything so beautiful,” he said.
The free public exhibition runs at Christie’s, 8 King Street, until Monday.