An auction of paintings and sculptures from the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen fetched a record $1.6 billion over two days, Christie’s auction house said on Thursday.
The successful auction in New York, where five works fetched more than $100 million each, was a sign that the art market continues to grow despite global economic uncertainty in the wake of the Ukraine war.
The record figure for an art auction had been set on Wednesday evening with more than $1.5 billion sold, Christie’s said in a statement. The second day of the sale on Thursday fetched $116 million.
“The Paul G. Allen collection attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Christie’s galleries around the world, and has now made history, setting the record for the most valuable auction sale ever,” said Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s, in a statement.
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In total, the collection included “155 masterpieces spanning 500 years of art history”, with all of the works on offer sold, the Christie’s statement said.
The works to breach the $100 million mark included: Georges Seurat’s “The Poseurs Together – Small Version” ($149.2 million), Paul Cezanne’s “La montagne Sainte-Victoire” ($137.7 million), Vincent Van Gogh’s “Orchard with Cypresses” ($117.1 million), Paul Gauguin’s “Maternity II” ($105.7 million) and Gustav Klimt’s “Birch Forest” ($104.5 million).
Christie’s, which is controlled by French billionaire Francois Pinault’s holding company Artemis, had earlier announced that all proceeds from the sales would be donated to charity.
American billionaire Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, although the two later fell out. In 2009, he signed the “Giving Pledge”, a promise to donate the majority of one’s wealth to charity. He died in 2018.
The value of this week’s auction broke the previous record for an art collection, set by the Macklowe collection at $922 million at Sotheby’s earlier this year.
With the sales of the Macklowe and Allen collections, and the sale of a portrait of Marilyn Monroe — “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” by Andy Warhol — in May for $195 million, 2022 is on course to be the most lucrative year ever for the art market.