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China’s Richest Man Buys $28 Million Picasso at Auction

Picasso's “Claude et Paloma”
“Claude et Paloma,” by Pablo Picasso, depicts the artist's young children, Claude and Paloma, as shown in this handout photo released to the media on Nov. 6, 2013. China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, bought the painting for $28.2 million at Christie’s in New York yesterday. Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, bought Picasso’s painting of his young children, Claude and Paloma, for $28.2 million at Christie’s in New York yesterday, the auction house said.

Estimated at $9 million to $12 million, the 1950 canvas led an otherwise lackluster evening sale of art dealer Jan Krugier’s collection.

The sale took in $92.5 million. Coupled with $21.2 million from today’s morning session, the two-part auction tallied $113.7 million, 34 percent below the low end of its presale estimate range of $171.4 million to $244.3 million. Of the 155 offered lots, 29 failed to find buyers, including pieces by Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Gerhard Richter and Robert Rauschenberg.

The biggest casualties were Picasso’s sculpture “Tete” and Kandinsky’s painting, “Herbstlandschaft.” The two lots were estimated to bring as much as $60 million. Neither drew a single bid in a hushed room yesterday.

Krugier, a Holocaust survivor who became a powerful Geneva art dealer, died in 2008. The 155-lot group from his estate includes 29 Picassos.

“It’s not really a collection, it’s Krugier’s inventory,” said Paul Gray, director of Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago and New York. “Most of the things that didn’t sell were way over-estimated.”

Picasso’s “Tete” was valued at $25 million to $35 million. The sheet-metal piece was a maquette for the 65-foot sculpture outside the Richard J. Daley Center, originally known as the Chicago Civic Center.

Prior Offers

“It’s a great piece, but it’s been in several art fairs in the past five years,” Gray said.

Kandinsky’s 1911 painting of a mountaintop was expected to bring $20 million to $25 million; a similar painting from 1909 fetched $21.2 million in London in June.

Less expensive artworks fared better.

The evening began with spirited bidding for Picasso’s “Cigare,” a 4-inch-long, half-smoked cigar made with painted wood. Estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 it sold for $1.1 million, drawing bids on the phones and in the room. The buyer was a client of Brooke Lampley, Christie’s head of Impressionist and modern art department in New York. The prices include fees; estimates do not.

An Ivory Coast Baule mask that had been owned by Andre Breton and Picasso fetched $1.4 million, almost three times its low estimate.

Chinese Conglomerate

Wang, who bought Picasso’s “Claude et Paloma,” through Rebecca Wei, managing director of Christie’s Asia, ranks 84th on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index with net worth of $13.2 billion. He is the chairman and founder of Dalian Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate with interests in commercial property development, a department-store chain, tourism, hotels and entertainment centers.

Domenico Gnoli’s 1968 painting depicting a 5-foot-tall close-up of a pocket was chased by Daniella Luxembourg, whose New York gallery had the artist’s exhibition last year, and Xin Li, Christie’s deputy chairman of Asian business development. Li won the bidding war, getting the piece for $2.3 million, above the high estimate of $1.8 million.

Christie’s evening Impressionist and modern-art auction takes place this evening, led by Alberto Giacometti’s portrait of his brother Diego, estimated at $30 million to $50 million.

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