The Paul Allen collection: a billion dollars at Christie’s?

Co-founder of Microsoft in 1975, Paul Allen was, beyond a philanthropist, a lover of art and discovery. The value of his personal collection, made up of more than 150 exceptional works, is said to be close to a billion dollars.

From his early days when he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Bill Gates (they were only 22 and 19 at the time), to businessman, philanthropist and art lover Paul G. Allen (1953-2018) led an extraordinary life. One of the main goals of this future-oriented global patron: “To accelerate discovery and provide some of the world’s brightest minds with the resources to solve the toughest challenges.” During his lifetime, his donations exceeded 2.65 billion dollars distributed in all areas – scientific, artistic, social…

His knowledge covered a wide range and, throughout his life, he sought excellence with very sure judgment: his collection is that of a visionary. From Jan Brueghel the Younger to Lucian Freud, via Manet, Cézanne or Turner, the sale of this extraordinary collection, covering five hundred years of art history, will certainly be an unprecedented event. The proceeds of these auctions will be donated to philanthropic works, according to the last wishes of Paul Allen.

The five senses by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678)

This set of painted panels (70.2 x 113.3 cm), which represent the five senses (here, Hearing), was executed around 1626, with incredible profusion of detail. The series is listed as early as 1720 in the collections of Emperor Charles VI, the music lover, in Vienna. As often happened in the dynasties of painters of that time, the artist’s father, Jan Brueghel the Elder, had produced the same series earlier in collaboration with Rubens.

The five senses by Jan Brueghel the Younger, 1626. © Christie’s

Estimate for the five pieces: between 4,000,000 and 6,000,000 euros.

The Poseuses, Together by Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Seurat’s work fascinated as much as it disturbed his contemporaries. The founder of pointillism had a scientific method of creation, consisting in methodically juxtaposing an extraordinary number of small points of pure colors so that they reproduce the light and the normal image. No question of lyricism or emotion in the corpus restricted by this solitary and little-known painter, who died at the age of 32, most of whose works are in American museums. These Poseuses, Togetherpainted in 1888 (the same model posed three times), are one of the small versions (39.3 x 50 cm) of the large painting (207.6 x 208 cm) kept at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

Les Poseuses, Set by Georges Seurat, 1888.
The Poseuses, Together by Georges Seurat, 1888. © Christie’s

Estimate beyond 103,000,000 euros.

Small False Start by Jasper Johns (born in 1930)

If we know well the most famous work of this painter around the American flag, we know less his work like Small False Start, which marks a change of course in his career. In this painting, the color in freedom splashes the viewer, we are far from the well-framed American flag. Encaustic, acrylic and collage of paper on cardboard (55.6 x 46.4 cm) make up this painting produced in 1960.

Small False Start by Jasper Johns, 1930.
Small False Start by Jasper Johns, 1930. © Christie’s

Estimate between 46,000,000 and 67,000,000 euros.

Maternity II by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Painted in Tahiti in 1899, this very personal work, in vibrant colors, represents Pahura, the artist’s companion who was only 17 years old and had just given birth to their son. Paul will call him Émile, after his first son born in France, in 1874. By this time, Gauguin had passed his fifties and had not seen his European family for eight years. The distance, the isolation and the loss of two of his children in France had given him the desire for a new family life. The painter kept this painting until his death. This oil on burlap (94.7 x 61 cm) was found during the sale of his property in Tahiti.

Maternity II by Paul Gauguin, 1899.
Maternity II by Paul Gauguin, 1899. © Christie’s

Estimate beyond 92,500,000 euros.

Christie’sin New York, on November 9 and 10, 2022.

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