Paul Allen's $1 Billion Art Collection Heads to Auction

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

Paul Allen died in 2018 and left a $20 billion estate to his sister.

Getty Images

What's happening

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's art collection of more than 150 paintings will be auctioned off by Christie's in November. Allen founded tech giant Microsoft alongside high school friend Bill Gates.

Why it matters

This could be the most the most lucrative art auction ever, with the collection worth more than $1 billion. It includes masterpieces by Renoir and Monet.

What's next

All proceeds from the sale of the art collection will go to charity. Allen donated more than $2 billion to charity during his lifetime, before dying in 2018.

Christie's auction house said Thursday it will handle the sale of the impressive art collection of Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft. The collection is valued at more than $1 billion and includes masterpieces by Renoir and Monet.

The sale of at least 150 paintings spanning several centuries could lead to the most lucrative art auction ever, according to the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The sale is expected to exceed the record $922 million private art collection sale achieved earlier this year by real estate developer Harry Macklowe and his former spouse Linda Macklowe.

In addition to being a tech pioneer and philanthropist, Allen was passionate about art and culture. When Allen died in 2018 at 65 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he left his $20 billion estate to his sister Jody Allen, who also serves as chair of his Vulcan investment company.

"He believed that art expressed a unique view of reality -- combining the artist's inner state and inner eye -- in a way that can inspire us all," Jody Allen said in a statement to the Journal.

Among the works confirmed for auction are Jasper Johns's 1960 canvas Small False Start, estimated to sell for at least $50 million, and Paul Cézanne's 1888–90 landscape La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, valued at around $100 million. 

Other artists represented in the wide-ranging collection include Botticelli, Jan Brueghel, Gauguin and Seurat, as well as more contemporary artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Hopper and David Hockney.

Allen helped usher in the personal computer era when he co-founded Microsoft with his high school friend Bill Gates. Allen gained a reputation as a serious art collector after leaving Microsoft in 1983.

In 2016, Allen was the anonymous buyer of one of Monet's famed haystack paintings for $81.4 million, then an auction record, according to Bloomberg. The day before, he sold a photo-realistic painting of a fighter jet screaming across the sky by Gerhard Richter for $25.6 million, more than double the $11.2 million he paid a decade before.

The proceeds from the sale, which will occur at an undetermined date in November, will go to charity, in accordance with Allen's wishes. During his lifetime, Allen donated more than $2 billion to charitable causes.