London preview opens Windows on Microsoft tycoon’s soon-to-be-auctioned art collection

A selection of works from the collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, including a work by Paul Cézanne estimated at over $120 million, are on display at Christie’s London this weekend ahead of the sale of the set New York holdings next month (November 9-10).

The London preview, open to the public (until October 17), presents 12 works. Among them, Georges Seurat The Poseuses, Together (Small version) (1888) – estimate over $100 million – and Madonna of the Magnificat (1444/45-1510) by Sandro Botticelli, estimate over $40 million. Other featured artists include Lucian Freud, Wassily Kandinsky and René Magritte. All lots at Allen auctions will be guaranteed, an increasingly standard offering used by Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s to secure large collection shipments. Whether any of Allen’s works have been supported by third parties will become clearer next week. “All of this will be evident in the catalog for the sale, which is due out next week,” says Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie’s vice president for 20th and 21st century art.

The more than 150 works have an estimated cumulative value of $1 billion. All proceeds will go to philanthropic causes in accordance with the wishes of the tech mogul and collector, who died in 2018.

Cezanne’s work…Sainte-Victoire mountain (1888-90) – carries the highest estimate in the collection. “I don’t think the estimate excludes museums,” Bertazzoni says. “There are American museums supported by major donors. If it goes to a large collection, it will hopefully end up in an American museum. Collectors recognize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. During his life, Allen often lent his works for museum exhibitions; after his death, his hometown institution, the Seattle Art Museum, held an exhibition of select paintings from his collection which included many works now up for auction.

“Allen was a very selective collector who could wait and did everything himself, without advisers,” says Bertazzoni, adding that he was first and foremost a computer scientist. “He liked paintings related to mathematics. He loved pointillism because it was based on solid scientific theory.

There is also the question of the fate of the remaining works in the Allen collection, overseen by his estate. “We don’t know what will happen to the rest of the collection,” Bertazzoni says. More works are due to be exhibited at Christie’s Paris later this month (October 20-22) before the full preview opens in New York on October 29.

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