The most expensive collection in auction history
Christie’s sold 150 works from the Paul G. Allen Collection for over $1.6 billion on 09-10 November 2022, as wealthy collectors around the world shrugged off economic and crypto worries to invest in trophy artworks.
Five paintings broke the $100 million mark on 09 November 2022, including the night’s top seller — Georges Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble,” which sold for $149.2 million. Several works sold for three or four times their estimates, with several artists setting records at auction, including Vincent van Gogh, Edward Steichen and Gustav Klimt.
The sales total of $1.62 billion shattered the previous record for the most expensive collection ever auctioned, set by the Harry and Linda Macklowe collection auctioned at Sotheby’s for $922 million. The sales total included $1.5 billion from Wednesday night and just over $100 million from Thursday’s sale.
“This shows that for objects of this quality and rarity, people will spend whatever it takes to obtain them,” said Andrew Fabricant, chief operating officer of Gagosian, the mega-gallery.
The collection of Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft, was a treasure trove of masterpieces spanning 500 years. All of the proceeds will go to charity, since Allen signed the Giving Pledge promising to leave at least half of his fortune to charity.
Allen’s keen eye for great art also made for great investments. He purchased Gustav Klimt’s “Birch Forest” for $40 million in 2006. It sold Wednesday for $104 million.
“It just shows if you have the patience, the wherewithal and proper advice, you can actually build an asset in an art collection that is difficult to assail,” Fabricant said. “The winds of change don’t really affect it to the degree you find in other asset classes. It’s been proven time and time again.”
Paul Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” sold for $137.8 million. Vincent van Gogh’s “Verger avec Cypres” sold for $117 million and set a new record for van Gogh at auction, last set in 1990. Paul Gaugin’s “Maternite II” sold for $105.7 million.
Lucian Freud’s “Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau),” considered one of his largest masterpieces, sold for $86.3 million. One of Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” paintings went for $64.5 million.
Bidding was strong across the globe Wednesday. Christie’s said bids came from 19 countries, and art experts said the Seurat, van Gogh and Klimt all likely went to Asian buyers.
Several works sold for multiples of their estimates. A famous photo by Edward Steichen of New York’s Flatiron building sold for $11.8 million, making it the second-most expensive photograph ever sold and smashing the $2 million to $3 million estimate.
An Andrew Wyeth painting, called “Day Dream” became the subject of a heated bidding war, selling for $23.3 million, far above its estimate of $2 million to $3 million. Despite the current collector obsession with contemporary art, several of Allen’s Old Masters hit eight figures. A Botticelli work called “Madonna of the Magnificat” went for $48 million.