This month, Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection, presents over 150 pieces of fine art valued at more than $1 billion dollars, now up for auction at Christie’s New York. The quantity and quality are impressive as was Allen’s quest to amass the works. A co-founder of Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, Allen passed away in 2018 at the age of 65. His collection spans 500 years, surveying an array of movements and mediums, with exceptional works that range from Jan Brueghel the Younger to Jasper Johns. There are bridges and canals depicted by Claude Monet and Édouard Manet, respectively, a bronze, paint, and stainless steel sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, a triptych by Francis Bacon, and a Georgia O’Keeffe canvas of bold flowers. The Georges Seurat, Les Poseuses, dated 1888, has an important provenance that includes the 1913 Armory Show, where it was once displayed. “To stand in front of these singular works, in what can only be described as a temporary museum setting while on view in our galleries, will be transformative,” says Cathy Busch, Deputy Chairman, Christie’s Chicago. In its breadth and depth, the display offers an experience not to be missed.
Allen’s father was a librarian, his mother a school teacher, and both encouraged creativity and art appreciation at home. In previous press, Allen shared his childhood memories of drawing and painting as well as poring over the family’s copy of a book on Picasso ceramics. In the 1980s, a visit to the Tate in London widened both his exposure and perspective. He began to think about what it might be like to actually live with such fine art masterpieces and have the ability to see them each and every day. As an active buyer, he was known to be diligent about his research, restricting his selections to those that pleased or intrigued him aesthetically rather than the most popular of the moment.
“It’s hard to imagine that this is the result of one man’s passionate pursuit of excellence,” says Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas. “Allen was drawn to artists who shared his genius for seeing our world in new ways and explaining it to us by new means.” His philanthropy in the fields of technology, science, and music, will benefit from the proceeds of the sale. And, for a brief period, we may also profit from experiencing his personal appreciation for artistic innovation. “Given that Chicago is a day trip to New York, we hope local collectors and art enthusiasts alike will travel to Christie’s at Rockefeller Center for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before this historic collection is dispersed forever,” notes Busch.
For more information, visit christies.com.