China Billionaire Buys Picasso Kids

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.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network were otherwise unimpressed with yesterday's sale.

Estimated at $9 million to $12 million, the 1950 Picasso 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 the 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, has a 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.