Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen’s $1 B. Collection to Be Sold at Christie’s

The art collection of tech mogul Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft who died at the age of 65 in 2018, will be sold at Christie’s in what will be one of the most expensive single-owner sales sales ever to come to the open market, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Thursday.

Allen, who was listed on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list for over two decades, amassed a collection that is worth an estimated $1 billion. The house has not yet announced when Allen’s holdings will hit the block.

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Christie’s will sell a group of 150 artworks from Allen’s estate. The sale is poised to be the most expensive art collection ever sold, beating out two recent marquee single-owner auctions. It is expected to surpass the $922 million generated with the sale of court-ordered Macklowe’s collection, sold at Sotheby’s earlier this year, as well as the 2018 sale of David Rockefeller’s collection at Christie’s in 2018, which brought in $835 million.

Allen, whose cause of death was due to complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, left the entirety of his estate to his sister Jody Allen, who remains chair of his investment company Vulcan.

Known primarily as a tech pioneer since the mid-’70s, Allen also gained a reputation for being a serious philanthropist and art collector, a vocation around which he was highly discrete. He was first included on the annual Top 200 Collectors in 1997, and was listed in each edition up until his death in 2018. In the 2020 edition of the list, ARTnews predicted that Allen’s collection would soon head to auction.

Among the works that will be sold from the collection include Jasper Johns’s 1960 canvas Small False Start, estimated to sell for at least $50 million, and Paul Cézanne’s 1888–90 landscape La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, estimated around $100 million.

Christie’s America’s chairman Marc Porter said that proceeds from the sale will go to charity. No recipients have yet been disclosed by the auction house or representatives of Allen’s estate. Allen, known as an active philanthropist during his lifetime distributed $2 billion in funds related to medical, environmental, and cultural causes. Among his other endeavors in the cultural space included his founding of Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in 2000 and the Seattle Art Fair in 2015.

His wide-ranging collection spanned various era of art history from Old Masters to Impressionists to modern and contemporary art. Represented artists included Canaletto, Botticelli, Jan Brueghel, Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, and Seurat, as well as Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, Ed Ruscha, and David Hockney.

Other major works that he is known to have bought at auction include Mark Rothko’s 1956 abstraction Yellow Over Purple and Paul Gauguin’s 1899 canvas Maternity II, both of which he purchased in the early 2000s for $14.3 million and $39.2 million, respectively. In 2006, he bought Gustav Klimt’s 1903 landscape Birch Forest for $40.3 million at Christie’s.

Few major works have been known to be sold from Allen’s holdings. In 2016, Phillips sold Gerhard Richter’s Dϋsenjäger (1953), a realistic painting of an airplane, from Allen’s collection for $25.5 million.


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