500 Years of Art History Came Together in Christie’s $1.62 Billion Paul G. Allen Collection
Inspired by the limitless curiosity of Paul G. Allen, Christie’s presented more than 150 masterpieces, spanning 500 years of art in the recent The Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection auction. This monumental event made history as the first single auction to total over USD 1 billion. The sale connected Allen, a visionary philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, to a range of ground-breaking artists. The star-studded catalog placed Paul Cezanne with David Hockney and Georges Seurat with Jasper Johns. It took Allen more than 50 years and an immense admiration for art to collect all the works in the sale.
“This resounding success can be attributed to the unique combination of the intrinsic quality of the art works, the inspiring and visionary figure of Paul G. Allen, and the philanthropic endeavors underpinning the sale,” said Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s CEO, after the auction. “Christie’s is deeply honored to have been entrusted with the sale of this collection.”
Monet’s Mystical Waterloo Bridge
One of the most iconic artworks in the auction was Claude Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, Soleil Voilé. A dreamlike depiction of Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank of London painted between 1899 and 1903, it sold for $64.5 million. Monet arrived in London in 1899, and his room overlooked the Thames. Monet was instantly inspired, and thus began a series of paintings of London’s landscape. A recurrent theme in all his canvases was the Thames, the river running through the city like its veins. The painting captures multiple dramas, endlessly changing and subtly varied, somber or enchanting, reflections on the waters of the Thames.
Blurring the Boundaries With Georges Seurat
Precisely dotted colors form a trio of models in a studio, who appear to be waiting for the day’s activities to begin in Les Poseuses, Ensemble (1888) by Georges Seurat, which sold for a record $149.2 million. The central character was one of the first elements that Seurat sketched. She stands contrapposto, appearing mature and confident, her direct gaze and forthright stance suggesting she was an established model with plenty of experience. In the backdrop is La Grande Jatte (1884 –1886), one of Georges Seurat’s most famous works. Following criticism Seurat received for his famous plein air painting as a depiction of society, he chose to paint a studio scene instead. He heightened the connection between the two paintings by including accessories and ensembles from La Grande Jatte in Les Poseuses, Ensemble, like the orange parasol, the straw hat, and the purple dress beneath the models. Seurat then blurred the boundary between the two paintings, the studio and nature. Seurat had intended Les Poseuses to stand as a dynamic, monumental showcase for the pointillist technique.
Magritte’s Magic Cabinet in a Tree
René Magritte’s La voix du sang, or “the voice of blood,” sold for $26.7 million. Magritte famously resisted interpretations of his compelling Surrealist works. In contrast to its eerie title, the painting depicts a rootless tree trunk fashioned with cubbies in an ambiguous setting. Each hole contains a collection of meaningful objects. For Magritte, his strikingly surreal tree leverages a picturesque world, not by revealing everything, but by concealing it.
The Paul G. Allen Collection at Christie’s yielded dozens of other records, including for Paul Cézanne’s La montagne Sainte-Victoire ($137.8 million), Vincent van Gogh’s Verger avec cypres ($117.2 million), and Diego Rivera’s The Rivals ($14.1 million). According to Paul G. Allen’s wishes, the estate dedicated all the proceeds to philanthropy. For the complete results, visit Christie’s.
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