Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s art collection hauls in $1.5 billion at auction

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Five dozen works from Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh and other revered artists brought in $1.5 billion on Wednesday at an auction of part of the vast collection of paintings and sculpture amassed by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The total represented the highest amount ever collected at a single art auction, according to the auction house, Christie’s in New York. Proceeds will be donated to philanthropic causes in accordance with the wishes of Allen, who died in 2018.

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Several of the winning bids smashed previous records for individual artists and many exceeded the expected sales prices estimated by Christie’s.

Among the priciest works sold was Pointillist pioneer Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), an 1888 oil on canvas depicting three nude women. It fetched $149.2 million including fees, a record for a Seurat piece.

Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire”, a colorful landscape painted from 1888-1890, sold for $137.8 million, another record. And a Gustav Klimt 1903 painting, “Birch Forest,” set the high mark for a Klimt work, selling for $104.6 million.

Other notable sales included the highest price ever for a van Gogh painting. The artist’s “Verger avec cypres” sold for $117.2 million. Paul Gaugin’s 1899 oil on burlap “Maternite II” fetched $105.7 million.

Paintings from Georgia O’Keefe, Claude Monet, David Hockney, Andrew Wyeth and Pablo Picasso also sold, along with sculptures by Alexander Calder and Max Ernst.

A 1905 print of a photograph by Edward Steichen, “The Flatiron,” sold for $11.8 million, a record for a Steichen work and nearly four times Christie’s highest estimate.

Additional pieces from Allen’s collection will be offered at auction on Thursday.

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