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Is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen getting tired of his abstract art collection?

“Onement VI” by Barnett Newman sold for $43 million last May

Bloomberg reports that the tech billionaire just unloaded at auction a Mark Rothko painting — “Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange)” — for the whopping price of $56.2 million. The sale occurred at Phillips in New York, with original estimates for the painting at $50 million to $60 million.

It’s unclear what Allen paid for the piece, though Christie’s showed that the painting sold in 2007 for $34.2 million.

Here’s a partial description of the painting by Phillips, which sold it at auction and assembled an impressive catalogue of Rothko’s work:

“Bold and assertive, this painting’s luminescence—as in all the greatest of Rothko’s paintings—appears to stem forth not from the surface of the canvas but from some other, mystical space deep within its very fibers.”

The sale of the Rothko painting comes exactly one year to the day that Allen sold a 1953 abstract painting by artist Barnett Newman, one that fetched a hefty price tag of $43.8 million.

Allen is known for his eclectic tastes, with reporter Lesley Stahl going inside the “billionaire bachelor’s” collections on an episode of 60 Minutes three years ago, checking out everything from the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock to a Russian MIG 29 to a Shakespeare first folio.

In the interview, when asked by Stahl if he ever just says no to things he wants, Allen responded: “Sure, sometimes, I say: ‘You know, it is time to simplify.'”

Perhaps Allen is just simplifying his life by getting rid of the Rothko painting. Not bad to do that when there’s a $56 million price tag attached to it.

A spokesperson for Allen’s investment arm, Vulcan, declined to comment.

Here’s an explanation of the significance of the artwork, painted in 1955.

MARK ROTHKO ‘Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange)’, 1955 from Phillips on Vimeo.

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