The unprecedented $1.5 billion sale of the late Microsoft
co-founder Paul Allen’s masterpiece collection Wednesday evening at Christie’s — followed by strong results for the sale of 95 more works on Thursday — is giving a boost of adrenaline to the art market. The results appear to point to continued strength for art sales, although they also reflect the museum-level quality of Allen’s collection, and the fact the works were purchased by the billionaire, who was said to reach for the highest-quality examples from the world’s top artists stretching back centuries.
From the archives (October 2018): Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65 “The works were just extraordinary,” says Rachel Rosan, a veteran of the auction world who is now a senior director of fine art in New York at global art advisory firm Gurr Johns. “It was a special collection and special sale. It was a really great moment for the art world.” Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble — a canvas measuring just 15½ inches by 19¾ inches — which sold for $149.2 million in the evening’s top sale, “was one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever stood in front of,” Rosan says. The final total for just the first of two parts of the collection alone represented the “most valuable private-collection sale of all time,” according to Christie’s, with five works selling for more than $100 million, achieving world auction records for Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Gustav Klimt. All proceeds from the sale are going to philanthropic causes championed by Allen during his lifetime. The evening auction, which was 100% sold, also set 20 world records for one stellar piece after another representing the very best examples of some of the world’s most renowned artists. Works by Lucian Freud, Jasper Johns, Paul Signac, Max Ernst, an …