The tech mogul’s record-breaking art collection will be the most expensive ever sold at auction.
In November, art and technology will meet at their natural intersection: money.
Christie’s will auction the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in partnership with Allen’s estate later this fall. They expect the next sale, titled Visionaryto fetch more than $1 billion, making it “the largest and most exceptional art auction in history”, that is, the most expensive.
The late Allen was born in 1953 and died in October 2018. He first changed the world by co-founding Microsoft in 1975 and launched his first charitable foundation in 1986.
“Paul’s life has been guided by his desire to make this world a better place,” remarks Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s. “We believe that presenting his collection at auction and giving the opportunity to a wider audience to discover it will be a fitting tribute to celebrate Paul Allen’s vision and legacy.” It’s not every day that the big boss intervenes in the press release of a sale.
Allen’s friends saw him as a polymath, a person with an incredibly wide range of skills and interests – technology obviously, but also culture. Allen established the famed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in 2000 and launched the Allen Institute in 2003, focused on “groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs in brain science, cell science and immunology,” says Christie’s.
So far, they’re keeping details of Allen’s collection relatively low-key, though Cerutti told The New York Times “it encompasses five centuries of great art — from Botticelli to David Hockney.”
Only two works in the sale are in preview, an impressionist idyll by Cézanne entitled The Sainte-Victoire Mountain from 1890, and a colorful abstraction of post-war superstar Jasper Johns, circa 1960. Both top-notch artists command huge prizes in their own right.
The version hints that there is more where this came from. Allen has anonymously loaned works from his extensive collection to dozens of museums around the world, even mounting his own exhibitions such as the see nature show that toured 39 iconic landscape paintings across America in 2016.
“You have to do it because you love the works…and you know all of these works are going to outlast you,” Allen said in an interview for see nature. “You are only a temporary guardian of them.” All proceeds from the sale “will be donated to philanthropy in accordance with Mr. Allen’s wishes,” the description of the sale reads.
Christie’s points out that, like his Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Allen donated $2.65 billion during his lifetime, enriching the company’s relationship with biosciences, shared art, music and cinema while championing health technologies, endangered species and ocean exploration.
He was also an early signer of the Giving Pledge in 2010 and received the Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy in 2015.
“For Paul, art was both analytical and emotional,” says executor Jody Allen. “He believed that art expressed a unique vision of reality – combining the inner state and the inner eye of the artist – in a way that can inspire us all. Her collection reflects the diversity of her interests, with their own mystique and beauty. These works mean so much to so many people, and I know that Christie’s will ensure their respectful dissemination to generate tremendous value for philanthropic activities in accordance with Paul’s wishes.
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