Paul Allen's art collection breaks auction records, fetching $1.5 billion at Christie's

Only 60 of 150 lots from the Microsoft co-founder’s collection were sold on Wednesday, with five pieces selling for more than $100 million

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Paintings and sculptures from the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died in 2018, were auctioned off for a historic $1 billion on Wednesday, Christie's auction house said, with records set for works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat and Klimt.

At the end of the night, five paintings entered the exclusive club of works of art sold for more than $100 million at auction, Christie's said.

The most expensive piece of the evening, Georges Seurat's 1888 work Les Poseuses, Ensemble (small version), a renowned work of pointillism, fetched $149.24m, including fees, Christie's revealed.

French painter Paul Cezanne's La Montagne Sainte-Victoire fetched $137.8m, almost double the artist's auction record.

A work by Vincent van Gogh, Orchard with Cypresses, broke the Dutch artist's previous record, bringing in $117.2m.

A painting from Paul Gauguin's Tahitian period, Maternity II, brought in $105.7m.

Austrian painter Gustav Klimt's Birch Forest sold for $104.6m.

Another 95 works from Allen's collection will go on sale Thursday.

The auction house had announced that all the proceeds would be donated to charity.

While only 60 of 150 lots were sold on Wednesday, with the rest to be auctioned on Thursday, the value of the collection has already surpassed the previous record for the Macklowe collection, named after a wealthy New York couple, which fetched $922m at competitor Sotheby's earlier this year.

The two-day sale in New York came as experts say the super-wealthy are viewing art as a safe investment this year amid a tumultuous global economy and Russia's war in Ukraine.

Allen made his fortune with the establishment of the PC operating system with his better-known Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in 1975.

He amassed a huge art collection, which he would lend to museums before his death at the age of 65.

Allen left Microsoft in 1983 owing to health problems and a deteriorating relationship with Gates, who remained in charge of the company until 2000.

Despite their strained friendship, Allen signed Gates's Giving Pledge campaign and all proceeds from the auction are to be donated to charitable causes.

Updated: November 10, 2022, 7:26 AM