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Displaying items by tag: The Card Players

Paul Gauguin's  1892 painting, Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?), is coming to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

The most expensive painting ever sold was reportedly purchased by the Qatar Museums for nearly $300 million back in February, smashing the old record for Paul Cézanne's late 19th century work, The Card Players, which sold for an estimated $250 million.

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Friday, 12 April 2013 11:24

UK Lets Go of Important Picasso Painting

After 89 years in British collections, Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) Child with a Dove will leave the UK. The painting, which marks Picasso’s transition from a predominantly Impressionist style to his somber blue period, was sold last year to a collector in Qatar for nearly $77 million. The UK’s government quickly placed an export ban on the work in hopes that a British buyer would step up and claim the painting. The ban expired in December and no British collector or institution was able to raise the funds necessary to keep Child with a Dove in the country.

Qatar has emerged as a major force in the modern and contemporary art markets in recent years. In 2011, the emirate purchased one of Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906) versions of The Card Players for $250 million. Other major acquisitions by the country include Mark Rothko’s (1903-1970) White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) for $72 million as well as works by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and Richard Serra (b. 1939).  

Child with a Dove first came to the UK in 1924 after being purchased by a British collector, Mrs. R.A. Workman. The painting eventually made its way to the art collector Samuel Courtauld and following his death in 1947 was bequeathed to the Welsh Aberconway family. Christie’s sold the painting in 1947 on behalf of the Aberconways. Just last year the painting went on display at the Courtauld Gallery, which Samuel Courtauld founded, as part of the exhibition Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901. The exhibition ends on May 27, 2013 at which point the painting will be returned to Christie’s and then shipped out of the UK.  

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The tiny, oil-rich nation of Qatar has purchased a Paul Cézanne painting, The Card Players, for more than $250 million. The deal, in a single stroke, sets the highest price ever paid for a work of art and upends the modern art market.

If the price seems insane, it may well be, since it more than doubles the current auction record for a work of art. And this is no epic van Gogh landscape or Vermeer portrait, but an angular, moody representation of two Aix-en-Provence peasants in a card game. But, for its $250 million, Qatar gets more than a post-Impressionist masterpiece; it wins entry into an exclusive club. There are four other Cézanne Card Players in the series; and they are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. For a nation in the midst of building a museum empire, it’s instant cred.

Is the painting, created at the cusp of the 20th century, worth it? Well, Cézanne inspired Cubism and presaged abstract art, and Picasso called him “the father of us all.” That said, “$250 million is a fortune,” notes Victor Wiener, the fine-art appraiser called in by Lloyd’s of London when Steve Wynn put his elbow through a Picasso, in 2006. “But you take any art-history course, and a Card Players is likely in it. It’s a major, major image.” For months, he said, “its sale has been rumored. Now, everyone will use this price as a point of departure: it changes the whole art-market structure.”

The Cézanne sale actually took place in 2011, and details of the secret deal are now coming out as a slew of V.I.P. collectors, curators, and dealers head to Qatar for the opening next week of a Takashi Murakami blockbuster that was recently on view in the Palace of Versailles. The nation, located on its own small jetty off the Arabian Peninsula, is a new destination on the art-world grand tour: current exhibitions include an 80-foot-high Richard Serra and a Louise Bourgeois retrospective (her bronze spider is crawling across the Doha Convention Center), and in March it hosts a Global Art Forum that attracts artists, curators, and patrons from museum groups worldwide.

Land of the 1 Percent
Qatar (and its capital city, Doha) isn’t just a destination for those with private jets. It’s also a burgeoning intellectual and media hub. It hosts the headquarters of Al Jazeera, the Mideast campuses of Georgetown, Texas A&M, and Northwestern Universities—and of one the most ambitious sets of cultural goals since the robber barons and empire builders of America founded so many grand institutions a century ago.

Qatar does big things in a spectacular way. In 2008 when it opened the Museum of Islamic Art, a grand limestone behemoth by I. M. Pei, a flotilla of vintage ships sailed in V.I.P. guests representing the world’s great museums. Later, Robert De Niro floated up from the sea in a revolving open-air elevator to announce the Tribeca Film Festival was starting a Doha outpost.

In 2010, Qatar opened its Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Qatar National Museum, currently closed for renovation by superstar architect Jean Nouvel, will reopen in 2014. That’s where the Cézanne could end up, flanked by some famous Rothkos, Warhols, and Hirsts that the Qataris have been snapping up in a buying spree.

The royal family of Qatar, does not comment on its purchases, however. And the tight circle of auction, houses, officials and dealers it is involved with, by and large, sign confidentiality agreements. But multiple sources confirm the record purchase of The Card Players.

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