The late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s private art collection sold for $1.5 billion at auction—a record high number.
- Paul Allen’s private art collection sold in just two and half hours and resulted in the largest single-owner sale in art history.
- Around 60 pieces of artwork were sold at auction—totaling around $1.5 billion.
- Pre-auction estimates said the collection would bring in between $1 billion and $1.38 billion.
- Proceeds of the historic sale will go to various philanthropic organizations, though the specifics have not yet been announced.
Why it’s news
Many of the spectacular art pieces had an estimated value of $100 million or more. Pieces from artists Lucian Freud, Gustav Klimt, and Paul Cézanne were among the collection.
At the halfway point of the auction, sales had already totaled $1 billion.
Pieces regularly sold above the initial value estimates. A Georges Seurat pointillism-style painting, for example, had an estimated value of $100 million. It eventually sold for $130 million. Added auction fees brought the total paying price to $149.4 million. It was the most expensive piece sold during the auction.
A van Gogh landscape also sold above its estimate for $117.2 million. A Guaguin exceeded its $90 million estimate and sold for $105.7 million. The second highest sale of the evening was a Cézanne landscape that sold for $137.8 million.
The high sale numbers were perhaps encouraged by the quality of Allen’s art collection. All of the pieces presented had a proven track record in value.
The auction also set a record for the most number of paintings sold for more than $100 million in a single auction—five total.
Backing up a bit
Wealthy art collectors are rushing to shows as hard-to-get pieces come back on the market due to unprecedented prices. These high prices are likely incentivizing private collectors to sell their pieces.
The Art Basel show set to take place in Switzerland this summer anticipates continued high prices during the show.
Median spending on art the first half of this year has been around $180,000—price growth is expected to continue in the last half. Median spending for the entirety of last year reached $164,000.
More collectors are making million dollar purchases. Last year, only 12% of purchases were over $1 million. So far this year, 23% have reached that mark.
Sales at auctions are on the rise as well. Renowned auctions Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips saw more than a 20% increase in prices from last year. Art fairs in general are on the rise and beginning to reach the same levels seen before the pandemic.