When is a painting an announcement? When a Chinese real estate developer belonging to the country’s richest man pays more than double the estimated value for a Picasso, then the moment may have arrived.
Last week Dalian Wanda, the property firm controlled by China’s Wang Jianlin, splashed out $28.2 million at a New York auction to purchase “Claude et Paloma”, a 1950 portrait of the artist’s two youngest children. Christie’s which was auctioning a collection of works belonging to the late collector Jan Krugier, had expected to get a price of between $9 million to $12 million for the painting.
China’s Richest Man Seeks a Global Stage
Wang, who during October was named China’s wealthiest man by Forbes’ Rich List, has lately been targetting investments outside of China for his estimated $14.1 billion fortune.
In addition to this latest acquisition by his company, just last week Dalian Wanda acquired a controlling stake in a US$1.1 billion mixed-use real estate project under development in London. Wanda also grabbed headlines in 2013 with a $1 billion hotel project in New York, paired with an additional $1 billion hotel in London.
Beyond their forays into international real estate, Wanda made headlines in July by acquiring the UK luxury yacht maker Sunseeker for more than $500 million. During 2012, Wanda made what is still one of the biggest international investments by a Chinese company to date by purchasing US theater chain AMC for $2.6 billion.
Asked about his adventurous overseas acquisitions earlier this year, Wang remarked, “Failure is our tuition.”
First Purchase of Western Art
The Picasso is Wanda’s first major piece of Western art, but at the same auction the company also spent $2.7 million for “Head of a Woman in a Hat” by the same artist.
And the developer seems poised to buy more foreign works. As cited in the Wall Street Journal, Wanda’s art director, Guo Qingxiang said, “Prices in the Western art market are relatively inexpensive now, so it is a good buying opportunity.”
Big Sales to Chinese at a Disappointing Auction
In addition to Wanda’s two purchases, Chinese buyers also snatched up works by Henry Moore, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.
In all, eleven international buyers joined the bidding for Claude et Paloma, however, the overall auction brought in only $113.7 million, 34 percent below the low-end presale estimate of $171.4 million.