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Microsoft co-founder's art collection tops $1 bn at Christie's

Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘Nashaquitsa’ set an auction record for the artist with a price realised of $5.58 million.
Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘Nashaquitsa’ set an auction record for the artist with a price realised of $5.58 million.

New York: Paintings and sculptures from the collection of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen were auctioned off for a historic $1 billion on Wednesday, Christie's auction house said, with records set for works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat and Klimt.

Five paintings entered the exclusive club of works of art sold for more than $100 million at auction, the New York auction house said, in a sign that the art market continues to grow despite economic uncertainties related to the war in Ukraine and inflation.

The most expensive piece of the evening, Georges Seurat's 1888 work "Les Poseuses, Ensemble (small version)", a renowned work of pointillism, fetched $149.24 million, including fees, Christie's said.

The auction house had announced that all the proceeds would be donated to charity.

Wednesday's auction sold 60 of 150 lots, with the rest to be sold on Thursday.

The value of the collection has already surpassed the record for the Macklowe collection, named after a wealthy New York couple, which fetched $922 million at competitor Sotheby's earlier this spring.

Allen made his fortune with the establishment of the PC operating system with his better-known Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in 1975.

He amassed a huge art collection that he loaned to museums before his death in 2018 at the age of 65.

He had a net worth of $20.3 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes.

Allen left Microsoft in 1983, due to health problems and a deteriorating relationship with Gates, who remained in charge of the company until 2000.

He founded a pop culture museum in his hometown of Seattle and owned several sports franchises, including the Seattle Seahawks.

Despite their strained friendship, Allen signed Gates's "Giving Pledge" campaign and all proceeds from the auction are to be donated to charitable causes.

The sale on Wednesday totalled about $1.5 billion, according to an AFP calculation, and included French painter Paul Cezanne's "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" -- which fetched $137.8 million, almost double the artist's auction record.

A work by Vincent Van Gogh, "Orchard with Cypresses," broke the Dutch artist's previous record, bringing in $117.2 million.

A painting from Paul Gauguin's Tahitian period, "Maternity II," brought $105.7 million.

Austrian painter Gustav Klimt's "Birch Forest" brought in $104.6 million.

The billion mark was surpassed on lot number 32, an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, "Woman of Venice III," which sold for $25 million.

The auction was a testament to the quality of Allen's collection, which included a diverse range of works from the German-American painter-sculptor Max Ernst, whose sculpture "The King Playing with the Queen" sold for $24.3 million, to the American Jasper Johns, one of the few living artists featured in the collection, whose lithograph "Small False Start" sold for $55.35 million. — AFP

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