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How billionaires ease their conscience

Estimated at a billion dollars.

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How billionaires ease their conscience

Estimated at a billion dollars. Christie's expected to sell this astronomical sum by auctioning a single art collection. The former owner of the approximately 150 works, Microsoft co-founder Paul Gardner Allen, who died in 2018, had decreed that all proceeds from the sale of his estate should be used for charitable purposes.

His foundation works to preserve the oceans, protect wildlife, fight climate change and empower underserved communities. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation now has reason to celebrate: The estimated value was exceeded on the first of the two auction evenings.

On November 10, 2022, Christie's reported a record in auction history: $1,506,386,000 was the bottom line after 60 works had been auctioned. Five paintings achieved prices in excess of $100 million.

The top lot turned out to be Georges Seurat's pointillist painting Les Poseuses (for which no estimate had been published in advance). After a five-minute bidding war, the picture changed hands for $149 million. Paul Cézanne's painting "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" came in at $137.8 million, Vincent van Gogh's garden portrait "Verger avec cyprès" at $117.2 million, Paul Gauguin's group portrait "Maternité II" at $105.7 million and Gustav Klimt's "Birch Forest" at $104.6 million.

Some of these classic modern works of art were exhibited in the French branch of Christie's on the occasion of the new Paris art fair in October 2022 - an amuse-gueule for the auction in New York, which Christie's says was followed by 2.2 million viewers via live streams must. 20,000 visitors watched the exhibition of lots in the Rockefeller Center in New York.

As an art collector with a sure taste and/or knowledgeable advisors, Paul Allen, who had already left the software company Microsoft in 1983, pursued a similarly generalistic approach as he did as a philanthropist: He bought what was good and (mostly) expensive – and now in the hope of Foundation like the auction house has made all the more paid.

Thomas Hart Benton, Jan Brueghel the Younger, Cezanne and Gauguin, Henri Edmond Cross, Max Ernst, Sam Francis, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, Jasper Johns, van Gogh, Klimt and Seurat, Diego Rivera, Henri Le Sidaner, Paul Signac, Edward Steichen and Andrew Wyeth are artists who set a new auction record. Botticelli, Canaletto, Picasso, John Singer Sargent, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Georgia O'Keeffe, Francis Bacon and David Hockney were other big names in an auction of superlatives that once again went to billionaires and those "ultra high net Worth Individuals” who have more than $50 million in liquid assets. However, the results of the auction, which goes by the name of “Visionary”, also show how loose the funds are at the end of the global wealth pyramid.

“Even at the top of the wealth spectrum, where many high net worth individuals have been spared some of the economic hardships, the bull market has stalled.” At least that’s the assessment of economist Clare McAndrew in the latest art trade report from Bank UBS and Art Basel. But she also writes about the growing willingness of the super-rich to pay sustainability premiums to reduce harmful environmental impacts. An investment in Paul Cézanne or Vincent van Gogh can be seen as a conscience-relieving compensation payment, because the transaction is consistently fulfilling “philanthropic causes”.

This may also be possible in the cheaper area: Among the works of art that once belonged to Paul Allen, there are some pieces that are appraised at a much lower price. For example, a terracotta fragment of the "Hands of the Virgin Mary" from Donatello's circle (10,000 to 15,000 dollars), a watercolor of the Parisian Pont-Neuf by Paul Signac (6000 to 8000 dollars) or Gary Hill's glass bombs "Untitled (Fat Man

And then there are still drawings by Saul Steinberg, the inventor of the map, which has meanwhile degenerated into a poster motif, which, in foreshortened perspective, makes a place the center of the world. Steinberg is a "very specific and accurate, precise observer who then reproduces things in a pointed manner," says art historian Jürgen Döring, who introduced him to a European audience for the first time.

In the case of Twenty Americans ($18,000-$25,000) things are 20 character heads like Steinberg drew for The New Yorker in 1975. On the evening of November 10, 2022, the second installment of Paul Allen's collection will be auctioned in New York.

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