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Billionaire Chinese "Beverly Hillbilly" Pays $170 Million For Naked Woman At Christie's

Back in May, we noted that if the Eccles cabal was looking for signs of hyperinflation, they could just head over to Christie’s and try to buy a "vibrant, multi-hued riot of colors that focuses mainly on a scantily dressed woman.”

That’s how WSJ described Picasso’s "Women of Algiers (Version O)" which went for a record $179,365,000 in a “dogged contest” at auction:

A month later, we said that classic cars seem to be in a bubble as well (although we also suggested it could be about to burst) with a 1955 Mercedes 300SL gullwing going for $2.5 million. 

And then there's the real estate market, where billions in capital fleeing China, ZIRP, NIRP, and the fact that trillions in global QE has served to inflate the fortunes of billionaires have led directly to soaring prices. As one Monaco-based shipping and real estate magnate told Bloomberg in May, "people want trophy homes. They’re a scarce commodity. And they’re better than gold because you can boast about it."

Right. Well now, a "Chinese bidder" gets to "boast" about owning an outstretched nude by Modigliani which just went for $170.4 million with fees at Christie’s - it was the second-highest price paid at auction in history. 

Here's The New York Times with more: 

The painting became the 10th work of art to reach nine figures under the hammer. The bidding was palpably tense, with six people vying for the lot, and it took nine minutes to sell, with the winning bid coming from a Chinese buyer on the phone.

 

The seller of the Modigliani, Laura Mattioli Rossi, the daughter of the Italian collector Gianni Mattioli, was guaranteed at least a $100 million minimum price. Just before the sale, Christie’s announced that a third party had stepped forward to share the risk — as well as any proceeds above the guaranteed price. 

And here's more from CRI on the Chinese bidder and the "tense" auction:

Chinese collector Liu Yiqian spent 1.084 billion yuan ($170.4 million) on a Modigliani nude painting at Christie's in New York on Monday, a new record for a Modigliani piece, according to Artron.net.

 

It is also the second-highest price ever for a work of art at auction, second only to Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, which sold for $179 million at Christie's in May.

 

Liu Yiqian, the man who founded the Long Museum in Shanghai with his wife, always makes a stir with his buying. He bought an imperial embroidered silk Thangka for about $45 million and a Doucai Chenghua "chicken cup" for $36 million last year.

 

Some half-dozen bidders competed for the canvas, which had remained in the same private collection for some 60 years and was offered as the highlight of a specially curated "Artist's Muse" sale, comprising 34 works in total.

 

In a packed salesroom marked by deliberate but determined competition, bidding started at $75 million - already more than Modigliani's auction record of $70.7 million - and ticked upwards in $5 million increments before a telephone bidder prevailed at $152 million.

 

The final price was $170,405,000 including Christie's' commission of just over 12 percent. The auction house had estimated the canvas would fetch more than $100 million.

Back to The Times:

Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, confirmed on Tuesday that he was the buyer of the painting of a nude woman by Amedeo Modigliani that sold for $170.4 million at Christie’s New York on Monday night.

 

Speaking by telephone from Shanghai, the Chinese collector said he planned to bring the work back to the city, where he and his wife have two private museums.

In April, Bloomberg described Liu Yiqian as a "Chinese Beverly Hillbilly" who sips tea from 15th century Ming dynasty ceramic cups: 

In July he caused an online furor in China for drinking tea from a 500-year-old ceramic bowl that once belonged to revered Emperor Qianlong. A photo went viral showing him dressed in a short-sleeved, plaid shirt, with an incipient smirk as he raised the precious, palm-size “Chicken Cup” to his lips.

 

China’s netizens couldn’t decide which was more outrageous, his treatment of the historic artifact or the record $36 million he paid for it at a Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong. Even his settlement for the bowl was theatrical: 24 separate swipes of his American Express Centurion card. He said he didn’t even realize that he qualified for hundreds of millions of reward points.

 

 

Conspicuous consumption isn’t new among the billionaires minted during China’s economic boom. But shows of wealth are considerably rarer since Xi came to power in 2012 and began a corruption crackdown that’s netted thousands of officials, some from the top echelons of power. Ten days after Liu’s tea-drinking stunt, the Communist Party said it was investigating former internal security chief Zhou Yongkang.

 

“I’m not nervous at all, because all my wealth is out in the open and there is nothing to worry about,” Liu says in an interview in one of his Shanghai museums. “Every country has experienced an anti-corruption campaign at some time.”

 

As if to prove the point, the AmEx card was out again last month for a Tibetan embroidered silk thangka he’d won for $45 million at an auction in November.

Anyway, you can read more about Liu in the Bloomberg article cited above. The point, for now, is that while DM central banks insist that due to a persistent "deflationary" impulse, what we need is still more QE which will only serve to inflate the financial assets of the world's Liu Yiqians, central planners are creating massive asset bubbles in everything from real estate to Modiglianis to ceramic bowls. 

As for Liu, we'll just say that paying $170 million for paintings of naked women doesn't sound like the kind of thing Xi would approve of...