Paul Allen Said to Be Seller of $35 Million Richter Jet Painting

  • It’s the highest value of 18 Richters slated for auction
  • ‘Dusenjager’ sold for $11.2 million in 2007 at Christie’s

Richter's Düsenjäger, 1963

Source: Phillips

Billionaire Paul Allen could triple his investment when his Gerhard Richter painting of a jet fighter hits the auction market for as much as $35 million.

The painting will lead Phillips’ evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art on Nov. 16 in New York. Allen is said to be the owner, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The work sold for $11.2 million in 2007 at Christie’s in New York, an auction record at the time for the artist.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen

Photographer: Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

Michael Sherman, a spokesman for Phillips, declined to comment on the seller’s identity. A spokeswoman for Allen declined to comment.

Mixed Year

It’s been a mixed year for the market of the 84-year-old German artist. While an exhibition of his new work at Marian Goodman Gallery sold out in New York, two significant paintings were withdrawn from auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s earlier this year.

Painted in 1963, “Dusenjager” depicts a gray jet traveling through a pink sky at what looks like a piercing speed. Estimated by Phillips at $25 million to $35 million, the work is part of a group of Richter’s eight early photo-based paintings that depict World War II-era aircraft, some with bombs in free-fall.

“Dusenjager” has the highest estimate among at least 18 of the artist’s works that are slated for sale during bellwether semiannual auctions in New York. The estimate for the combined group -- which consists mostly of abstract paintings -- is $114.3 million to $165.2 million. Sotheby’s accounts for 10 Richter works, all from the collection of Steven and Ann Ames, with two estimated at $20 million to $30 million. Christie’s has four works including one consigned by musician Eric Clapton, estimated at about $20 million.

Phillips has a client who placed an irrevocable bid, guaranteeing that the 6.6-foot-wide artwork sells at auction, the company said.

“This is a defining early Richter,” said Jean-Paul Engelen, worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips. “The painting has this extreme power that’s seductive but on the other hand is also threatening.”

Art Patron

Allen, a co-founder with Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp., has an $20.2 billion net worth that ranks him 33rd on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2014, Allen sold a Mark Rothko painting at Phillips for $56.2 million. The work was acquired for $34.2 million in 2007, also at auction.

In 2015, Allen helped co-found Seattle Art Fair. A selection of artworks from his collection has been on a tour of U.S. museums. Buying art turned out to be “a very, very good investment for me,” Allen told Bloomberg in a 2015 interview. “I didn’t go into it thinking this way.”

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