The most expensive private collection and the most expensive work of art of the 20th century were sold
The past year 2022 will go down in history as one of the most profitable for the art market. The most impressive commercial achievement through it is undoubtedly the sale of the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for a record 1.62 billion dollars. The art collection of Allen, who died in 2018, was sold at a two-day Christie’s auction in November, with five works fetching more than $100 million each. These were Georges Seurat’s Models, Ensemble (Small Canvas) ($149.2 million), Paul Cézanne’s Mount Saint-Victoire ($137.7 million), Vincent van Gogh’s Cypress Orchard ( 117.1 million), “Maternity II” by Paul Gauguin (105.7 million) and “Birch Forest” by Gustav Klimt (104.5 million).
That evening, an absolute record for an art auction was also set – more than 1.5 billion US dollars. A day later, on November 10, the second part of Allen’s collection was sold for “just” 116 million. In total, the collection included 155 masterpieces spanning 500 years of art history – from Sandro Botticelli to David Hockney. According to Christie’s executive director Guillaume Ceruti, “100 percent of them” have found a new owner. The company, controlled by French billionaire Francois Pinault’s Artemis holding company, announced that all proceeds from the sale would be donated to charity.
The previous record for a private collection, set just a few months earlier, belonged to Harry and Linda Macklowe’s collection, sold off after their divorce. Her works, offered at two Sotheby’s auctions – in May this year and in November 2021 – collected 922.2 million US dollars. At the May auction, 30 works from their collection fetched US$246.1 million in just 90 minutes. Among the Macklow family’s possessions sold were the paintings “Untitled” by Mark Rothko, “Seascape” by Gerhard Richter, “Self-Portrait” by Andy Warhol, “The Nose” by Alberto Giacometti, “Number 17, 1951” by Jackson Pollock.
A record was also set on May 9 this year at Christie’s with the portrait of the film icon Marilyn Monroe Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol. It fetched US$195 million, making it the highest-priced work of art of the 20th century at auction. Until now, this record was held by “Untitled” by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The 1982 painting of a skull-like face was bought in 2017 for US$110.5 million.
Warhol’s most expensive work to date was Silver Car Crash (double disaster), which depicts a car accident. The painting was sold for 105 million in 2013. As for the portrait of Marilyn, it was owned by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation of Zurich, which announced its intention to use all proceeds from the auction for charitable purposes.
These impressive sales contributed to auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s announcing record receipts for 2022 of US$8.4 billion and US$8 billion, respectively.
Photo: “Madonna Magnificat” by Botticelli.