Christie’s announced recently that it had won the consignment for the art collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018. His collection is considered one of the most prominent in the world, with works from the Renaissance to the twentieth century, including those by Monet, Renoir, Botticelli, Canaletto, Liechtenstein, O’Keeffe, and Johns. The Christie’s sale will include around 150 works from Allen’s collection to be sold sometime in November this year. The Allen collection has some truly great works, the most widely-publicized of which is Paul Cézanne’s landscape La montagne Sainte-Victoire. It was finished in 1890 and previously sold at Phillips in 2001 for $38.5 million. Currently, Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier holds Cézanne’s auction record, having sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $68.5 million. However, Christie’s specialists predict the Allen landscape to sell for $100 million or more.
On top of curating an incredible collection, Paul Allen served as a model for how collectors should responsibly interact with the market and the art world in general. Unlike some wealthy collectors who keep their collections locked away from public view in a warehouse or on their private yacht, Allen was very generous by lending works, sometimes anonymously, to several museums, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Through his company Vulcan, he also helped found several museums and the Seattle Art Fair. Christie’s predicts that Allen’s collection will become the most expensive single-owner sale in history when it eventually comes across the block in November. Of course, Christie’s has experience with these kinds of sales, having helped to sell the Rockefeller family collections for $835 million in 2018. If you’ve been paying attention to the market recently, then enormous collections from prominent figures are not new. Most recently, the collection of the real estate mogul Harry Macklowe and his wife Linda brought in $922 million across multiple sales in 2021 and 2022. But Christie’s specialists estimate that the Allen collection may bring in well over $1 billion.
Allen’s estate has expressed that the proceeds from the Christie’s sale will be donated to a number of charities and philanthropic organizations that have yet to be specified.