Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s art collection, including works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurat, raised a record $1.5 billion at a Christie's auction on Wednesday, a sign that wealthy collectors aren’t dissuaded by volatile securities markets and recession worries.
The first of two parts of Allen’s collection being sold includes 60 pieces, with 65% of the lot selling above Christie’s high estimates. Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)” was the priciest piece of the night at $149.2 million, exceeding its $100 million estimate and tripling the previous record price for the artist.
- Paul Allen’s art collection, including works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurat, raised a record $1.5 billion, the most ever at an auction.
- The sale was expected to bring in $1 billion.
- The overperformance suggests the top echelon of society feels insulated from economic and political turmoil.
- Five paintings sold for more than $100 each, which experts say is unprecedented.
- Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)” was the priciest piece at $149.2 million, exceeding its $100 million estimate.
Five Paintings Sold for More Than $100 Million Each
“Never before have more than two paintings exceeded $100 million in a single sale, but tonight, we saw five,” said Max Carter, Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas, in Christie’s press release. The other four works were created by Cézanne, Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Gustav Klimt and sold for $138 million, $117.2 million, $106 million and $104.6 million, respectively.
The sale was expected to bring in $1 billion. The overperformance suggests the top echelon of society feels insulated from economic and political turmoil, while some buyers may see high-value art is seen as a hedge against inflation and safer than investing in the stock market or cryptocurrency.
People Want to Put Their Money in "Hard Assets"
“People want to put their money into hard assets,” dealer Nicholas Maclean told the New York Times.
The sale exceeded the record set by Harry and Linda Macklowe’s collection of $922 million at Sotheby’s just six months ago. Their collection included mainly midcentury work by artists such as Andy Warhol, while Allen’s collection included art spanning 500 years.
Eighteen pieces sold Wednesday also achieved artist records, including works from van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Georgia O’Keeffe.
In any sort of market, collectors feel safe bidding below $10 million, but it is rare to see so many works exceed $50 million, art market experts said. Two works of art sold Tuesday went for above $50 million with only one bidder.
The $149.2 Million Seurat Sold to a Buyer in China
Buyers were from all around the world as well, with a quarter of the work going to buyers in Asia. The most expensive piece of the night from Seurat sold to a buyer in China.
The earliest work sold Wednesday was Sandro Botticelli’s “Madonna of the Magnificat” from the late 15th century, which sold for $48 million, while the newest was Wayne Thiebaud’s “Café Cart” from 2012, which sold for $6 million.
Edward Steichen’s 1904 photograph of the Flatiron building also sold for $12 million, which was not only four times its estimate and a record for the artist but also the second-highest price ever paid for a photograph
Christie's said that all proceeds will be dedicated to philanthropy, according to Allen’s wishes before he died in 2018.
The second and final part of the sale will take place throughout the day on Thursday.