Get the Paul Allen look (sort of)

Last week the Paul Allen collection became the first ever to sell for more than $1bn.

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Kendzia Auktionen of Hamburg offers Ferdinand Loyen du Puigaudeau’s Sunset by the Sea at its Christmas Auction on November 18-19. It has a starting bid of €15,000.

Going under the hammer at Christie’s New York, the sale raised $1.6bn (£1.4bn) which goes towards philanthropic causes. It included three sales of more than $100m, with the top lot, Seurat’s Le Poeseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) bringing $130m (£114m). It is the third highest auction price of all time. Other artists achieving record prices were van Gogh, Gauguin, Lucian Freud, Klimt and Cézanne.

So how is it possible to ‘get the look’? It’s not – and for two reasons.

First, Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, had a huge amount of capital at his disposal to build up the collection in the first place. Though prices went up over time, the works were already expensive when he bought them (mostly in the 1990s). Probably only a handful of people will ever have the resources and drive to build up such a collection in the near future.

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This painting of a colourful forest lane was painted by Jan Sluijters (1881-1957), a Dutch artist who worked through several different Modernist movements including fauvism, cubism and expressionism. Painted in 1910, the work comes from a series he produced emphasising the representation of light through colour. It goes under the hammer on November 16 at Venduehuis der Notarissen in The Hague with an estimate of €40,000-60,000.

Second, there is not really a theme to the collection, based on what the lots at Christie’s reveal (there is more to the collection than what was offered for sale, however).

While many who buy art stick more or less to a period, a group of artists or a type of work, Allen went more or less for the best of the best. There are certain threads throughout the collection: he tended towards representational works with an enjoyment of landscapes. It is weighted towards Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modernist works. There is an interest in US artists and depictions of women. But what really stands out is the interest in what is traditionally considered the art historical canon.

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Also at Venduehuis der Notarissen on November 16 is this pointillist scene of two ladies playing piano by candlelight by Deo Gestel (1881-1941). It is offered with an estimate of €40,000-60,000.

What the sale also reflected, though, was the fact that he bought frequently at auction. Sometimes he bought more than once per sale, using auction houses as a major resource for his collecting habit.

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Another pointillist picture goes under the hammer at Kunst & Kuriosa in Heidelberg, which runs its 294th auction from November 18-19. It is the work of Arthur Aron Segal, a Romanian painter and son of a Jewish banker who came to Berlin in 1892. This picture dates to 1909 and is estimated at €8000-9000. Segal’s pictures were later confiscated during the Nazi campaign against ‘Degenerate Art’.

It might not be possible to put together an Allen-calibre collection on less than a Microsoft-founding salary. However, there are still plenty of stunning works out there sourced, researched and offered by professionals around the world – and available at your fingertips.

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