Unforgettable art collections sold at Christie’s

From Paul Allen’s $1.7-billion art trove to Thomas and Doris Amman’s record-breaking Warhol, discover history-making art collections at Christie’s

art collections

As the house of great collections, Christie’s has sold treasured artworks from renowned collectors throughout the world. Distinct in scope, size and genre, they are reflections of the passion of each collector, and their command of high values at auction is a testament to their quality.

Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection, 2022-2023

The Co-Founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen built an unparalleled art collection that is the most valuable to ever come to market. Drawing on his revolutionary spirit, Mr. Allen targeted artists on the forefront of their time, and his collection encompassed masterpieces by Impressionists and Abstract Expressionists, Old Masters and contemporary trailblazers at work today.

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Adrien Meyer sells Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) from 1888 for a record $149,240,000 in Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection Part I on 9 November 2022 at Christie’s in New York

Overall, the collection achieved $1.7 billion at auction, surpassing the $1 billion mark halfway through the first evening sale and breaking records across categories. The top lot was Georges Seurat’s extraordinary Les Poseuses Ensemble (Petite version) (1888), which commanded $149,240,000, the highest price ever for any Impressionist or Post-Impressionist work of art. Paul Cezanne’s La Montagne Saint-Victoire (1888-1890) was the second highest lot, earning $137,790,000 and shattering the artist’s previous record.

Overall, the collection sold 100 per cent by lot and achieved 24 artist records by creators as diverse as Jan Brueghel the Younger to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Masterpieces from the Collection of S.I. Newhouse, 2019-2023

S.I. Newhouse, publishing magnate and co-owner of the Condé Nast media empire, was a renowned collector known for his unerring eye. Hugely influential around the world, Newhouse drew on his cultural acumen to build a collection that spanned icons of 19th, 20th and 21st century art.

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Jeff Koons's Rabbit from 1986 installed in Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries. Sold for $91,075,000 in Masterpieces from the S.I. Newhouse Collection on 15 May 2019 at Christie’s in New York. Photograph: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images. Artwork: © Jeff Koons

Sold in three instalments between 2019-2023, the collection has earned a total of $415 million. The centrepiece was Jeff Koons’s 1986 sculpture Rabbit, which achieved $91,075,000, setting a record price for a living artist sold at auction. The only edition still in private hands at the time, the work represents a revolutionary moment in contemporary culture. Another notable work was Cezanne’s Bouilloire et fruits (1888-1890), which realised $59,295,000.

Additional works were offered by luminaries of art history including Vincent van Gogh, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud and Richard Prince.

The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, 2018

The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection represented the greatest privately owned grouping of American Modernist art in the world. Ebsworth, a notable executive and pioneer in the travel industry, bought only the best examples of American creativity, including works by Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and more.

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Chop Suey, 1929. Oil on canvas, 32 x 38 in (81.3 x 96.5 cm). Sold for $ 91,875,000 in An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection on 13 November 2018 at Christie’s in New York. © 2023 Heirs of Josephine Hopper / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Sold at Christie’s in 2018, the collection achieved over $370 million and set thirteen artist records. Hopper’s Chop Suey (1929), which achieved $91,875,000, earned the distinction of the most expensive work of pre-war American art ever sold. Willem de Kooning’s Woman as Landscape (1954-1955) was another top lot, selling for $68,937,500 and setting an artist record.

The sale was also the first time an auction of this magnitude was recorded on the blockchain. Using a secure digital registry administered by the provider Artory, Christie’s continued its legacy of introducing cutting-edge innovations across its platforms.

The Collection of Anne H. Bass, 2022

Anne H. Bass was a celebrated philanthropist and patron of the arts known for her exquisite collecting taste. At the time of sale, Mrs. Bass had amassed the most expensive collection assembled by a woman to ever come to market. Comprised of just 12 objects from her Mark Hampton-designed Manhattan apartment, the auction earned a total of $363,087,500.

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Mark Rothko's Untitled (Shades of Red), 1961 and No. 1, 1962 flank Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le Parlement, soleil couchant, 1903 in Mrs. Bass's New York apartment. All sold in The Collection of Anne H. Bass on 12 May 2022 at Christie's in New York. Photograph: © 2022 Visko Hatfield, Artworks: © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The highest-grossing lot was Monet’s Le Parlement, soleil couchant (1900-1903), which soared past its pre-sale estimate to realise $75,960,000. A pair of works by Mark Rothko also achieved outstanding results. Untitled (Shades of Red) from 1961 sold for $66,800,000, while the painting’s 1962 counterpart, Rothko’s No. 1, fetched $49,625,000. Edgar Degas’s 1927 bronze cast Petite danseuse de quatorze ans created another notable moment, upending a 15-year-old artist record with a final price of $41,600,000.

The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann, 2022-2023

Two of the art world’s most respected dealers, Swiss siblings Thomas and Doris Ammann were also renowned collectors. Their trove of post-war and contemporary art showcased the close bonds they forged with the artists they championed, from stars such as Cy Twombly and Robert Ryman to lesser-known talents like Ann Craven and Martin Disler. Comprising nearly 100 lots, the collection brought in over $363 million.

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Jussi Pylkkänen sells Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn from 1964 for $195,040,000 in The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann on 9 May 2022 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) made waves when it hammered at $195,040,000. This price marks the most expensive 20th century artwork ever to sell at auction, and the second most expensive work of all time, just behind Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, a painting offered at Christie’s for $450 million in 2017. Other top lots included Cy Twombly’s Untitled (1955), which earned $21,000,000, and Robert Ryman’s Untitled (c. 1961), which fetched $20,141,250. The collection also set seven new auction records across artists and mediums.

The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism, 2021

Businessman, collector and philanthropist Edwin Lochridge Cox owned one of the most prestigious collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works to come to market. With 25 objects of fine art as well as a dedicated sale of American furniture and decorative arts, the collection totalled more than $333 million.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès, October 1889. Oil on canvas. 17⅞ x 23¾ in (45.5 x 60.3 cm). Sold for $71,350,000 in The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism on 11 November 2021 at Christie’s in New York

Paintings by major figures of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, including Cezanne, Van Gogh, Alfred Sisley and Berthe Morisot resulted in a white glove sale that hammered 160 per cent above the low estimate.

A trio of works by Van Gogh commanded the spotlight, with the artist’s Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès (1889) fetching $71,350,000 after a five-minute bidding war. Other notable works included Cezanne’s L'Estaque aux toits rouges (1883-1885), which earned $55,320,000, and Gustave Caillebotte's Jeune homme à sa fenêtre (1876), which sold for $53,030,000 and shattered the previous auction record for the artist.

Property Formerly in the Collection of Adele & Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, 2006

The story of the Bloch-Bauer Klimts is one of the most famous restitution cases of all time. Five works by Gustav Klimt were entrusted to Christie’s following a multi-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2006 an Austrian arbitration panel unanimously determined that the paintings had been unjustly seized following the Nazi Anschluss. The masterpieces were returned to Maria Altmann and her surviving cousins, heirs of the sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and his wife, Adele, sponsors of the arts in turn-of-the-century Vienna.

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Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Oil, silver and gold on canvas. 140 x 140 cm

Adele Bloch-Bauer has the distinction of being the only woman to have her portrait painted twice by Klimt. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) was purchased via private sale by Ronald Lauder for display in the Neue Galerie in New York City. At the time, it was the most expensive painting ever sold, commanding $135 million.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) broke the artist’s auction record at the time of Christie’s sale in November 2006, earning $87,936,000, after an exciting four-person bidding war. The remaining three landscape paintings each sold for over $30 million, reinforcing the importance of Klimt as a modern master.

A landmark case, the story of the restitution of the Bloch-Bauer Klimts continues to inspire those fighting to recover their lost cultural heritage today, and it was memorialised in the 2015 film Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

Important Art from the Fujita Museum, 2017

One of Japan’s preeminent cultural institutions, the Fujita Museum’s collection is composed of over 2,000 works of Japanese and Chinese art belonging to the Fujita family. In 2017, a selection of ritual bronzes, Buddhist stone sculptures, classical paintings and scholar’s objects were offered at Christie’s as part of Important Art from the Fujita Museum.

Chen Rong (13th century) as catalogued in Shiqu Baoji, Six Dragons. Handscroll, ink on paper. Sold for $48,967,500 in Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum on 15 March at Christie’s in New York

Across 27 lots, the collection earned over $262 million, surpassing the previous record for any Asian Art Week series in auction history. Chen Rong’s Six Dragons handscroll was the top-selling object, soaring past its pre-sale estimate of $1,200,000 to achieve $48,967,500. This price established a new record for a Chinese painting sold outside Asia. Another important lot was a bronze ritual wine vessel from the late Shang Dynasty. Also far surpassing its presale estimate, the vessel realised $37,207,500 against a low estimate of $6 million.

Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, 2010

The collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody displayed a passion for collecting she shared with her late husband and featured a suite of blockbuster names, including Matisse, Braque, Edouard Vuillard and Andre Derain, among others.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932. Oil on canvas. 63¾ x 51¼ in (162 x 130 cm). Sold for $106,482,500 in Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody on 3 May 2010 at Christie’s in New York. © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Anchored by eight works by Picasso, the collection earned over $225 million. The top lot was Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, a revolutionary 1932 work that sold for $106,483,500. At the time, the painting set a record for the artist. Two sculptures by Alberto Giacometti were the second and third highest grossing lots of the sale. Grande tête mince from 1954 realised $53,282,500 while the 1951 work Le Chat achieved $20,802,500.

The Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz

At the time of its offering in 1997, The Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz set the record for the highest-grossing single-owner auction. Earning over $206 million against a low estimate of $125 million, the collection highlighted the forward-thinking approach of its owners.

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Christopher Burge sells Pablo Picasso's Le Rêve from 1932 for $48,402,500 in The Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz in November 1997 at Christie’s in New York. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images. Artwork: © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

During their lifetime, the Ganzes acquired the most significant private holding of Picassos in the US, 12 of which were offered at auction. The top lot of the sale, the Spanish master’s Le Rêve from 1932 sold for $48,402,500, while the second-highest price was achieved by Les femmes d'Alger (Version ‘O’) from 1955 at $31,902,500. Version ‘O’ would go on to set an artist record for Picasso when it appeared again at Christie’s in 2015, selling for $179,365,000.

The cache of Picasso masterpieces was complemented by the work of post-war pioneers including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Eva Hesse.

Property from the Pincus Collection, 2012

Property from the Pincus Collection featured important post-war and contemporary works of art across painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. With a particular focus on Abstract Expressionism, the collection brought together notable paintings by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, among many others.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Orange, Red, Yellow, 1962. Oil on canvas. 93 x 81¼ in (236.2 x 206.4 cm). Sold for $86,882,500 in Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 7 May 2012 at Christie’s in New York. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

With a portion of the sales benefitting the Pincus Family Foundation, the collection achieved more than $202 million. The top lot was Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) which earned $86,882,500 against a low estimate of $35,000,000 — an auction record for the artist and, at the time of sale, the most expensive contemporary artwork sold at auction. This was followed by Pollock’s Number 28, 1951 (1951), which realised $23,042,500 and Barnett Newman’s Onement V (1952), which sold for $22,482,500.

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