Art from Microsoft founder Paul Allen sells for $1.6 billion

NEW YORK (AP) — Works by artists including Cézanne, Seurat, and van Gogh sold for a record-breaking $1.6 billion during Christie’s two-day auction of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s masterpiece-heavy collection.

All 155 of the artworks put up for auction Wednesday and Thursday in New York sold, and five paintings sold for prices above $100 million.

Georges Seurat’s pointillist “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)” sold for $149.2 million, Wednesday evening’s highest price. The larger version of “Les Poseuses” is at the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia.

Christie’s experts said that pointillism, a revolutionary technique when it was developed by Seurat and Paul Signac involving dots of color that combine to form an image, was of particular interest to Allen because of his computer background.

The auction house quoted Allen saying he was “attracted to things like pointillism or a Jasper Johns ‘numbers’ work because they come from breaking something down into its components — like bytes or numbers, but in a different kind of language.”

Other highlights from Wednesday’s sale included Paul Cézanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire,” which sold for $137.8 million, and van Gogh’s landscape “Verger avec cyprès,” which sold for $117.2 million.

“Never before have more than two paintings exceeded $100 million in a single sale, but tonight, we saw five,’ Max Carter, vice chair of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, said in a news release.

Eighteen works sold for record prices for the artists, who ranged from 17th century Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Younger to 20th century photographer Edward Steichen.

Topping the sales Thursday was Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen’s sculpture, “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X,” which fetched $8.4 million.

All proceeds will benefit philanthropies chosen by Allen’s estate.

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018. During his lifetime, he donated more than $2 billion to causes including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.

The previous single-evening auction record of $852.9 million was set at Christie’s contemporary art sale in New York in 2014.