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Here Are The 10 Biggest U.S. Billionaire Art Purchases. Will Paul Allen’s Collection Make The List?

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Late billionaire Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s art collection is estimated to fetch 10 figures when it goes to auction at Christie’s over two days on Wednesday and Thursday, and will include a 19th century impressionist painting expected to bring in more than $100 million—but that would still be less than what these 10 paintings sold for, the largest art purchases by U.S billionaires ever.

Key Facts

1. and 2. Citadel founder Ken Griffin paid $300 million for “Interchange” by Willem de Kooning in 2016, according to CNN, reportedly purchasing the painting from fellow billionaire David Geffen, along with a $200 million Jackson Pollock painting, “Number 17A” (The paintings, accounting for inflation, would be worth roughly $375.5 million and $250 million today, respectively).

3. Griffin also reportedly purchased “Orange Marilyn,” one of Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe, in a 2017 private sale for about $200 million from the collection of late publishing billionaire S.I. Newhouse Jr., according to the New York Times (Warhol’s portrait of Monroe would be worth about $242 million today).

4., 5. and 6. Hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen purchased “Woman III” by de Kooning for $137.5 million in a private sale in 2006, according to the New York Times, and also took home Roy Lichenstein’s “Masterpiece” for $165 million in 2017 and “Le Rêve” by Pablo Picasso for $155 million in 2013, the newspaper reported (The de Kooning would be worth $242 million today, the Lichenstein nearly $200 million and the Picasso $213.7 million).

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6. Elaine Wynn, the ex-wife of hotel magnate Steve Wynn, purchased “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” triptych by Francis Bacon for $142.4 million in 2013, which at the time was the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction according to the New York Times (the triptych would cost $171.9 million in 2022).

7. Cohen also purchased “Flag” by Jasper Johns for around $110.0 million in a 2010 private sale, according to The New York Times (worth about $163.6 million now).

8. Apollo Global Management cofounder Leon Black spent nearly $120 million on one of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” pastels in 2012, which also set an auction record, according to the Wall Street Journal ($155 million today).

9. In 2006, cosmetics mogul Ronald Lauder purchased Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” for the Neue Galerie, the museum he co-founded in 2001, for a reported $135 million according to the New York Times ($154.8 million today).

Tangent

Art dealer Larry Gagosian purchased a portrait of Monroe from the same series as “Orange Marilyn” for $195 million in May, which made it the most expensive work by an American artist ever sold at auction. It’s still unconfirmed if Gagosian purchased the record-breaking painting for himself or one of his billionaire clients, which include many of the collectors on this list.

Key Background

In August, Christie’s auction house announced it would sell the art collection that belonged to Allen, who died in 2018. The 150 works are expected to fetch in excess of $1 billion, which would make the collection the most valuable single-owner grouping to ever sell at auction. Allen’s collection–which was shrouded in secrecy during his lifetime–spans 500 years of art history and includes artwork from some of the world’s most acclaimed artists, like Sandro Botticelli, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe and David Hockney. The works up for auction include Georges Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)” from 1888 that is estimated at more than $100 million, and “Birch Forest” by Gustav Klimt, valued at more than $90 million. The collection will be auctioned off in New York over two evenings in November.

Big Number

$922.2 million. That’s the record for the most valuable art collection sold at auction, just set in May when artwork collected by Manhattan real estate mogul Harry Macklowe and his former wife Linda throughout their six-decade marriage sold for a collective $922.2 million over two auctions. The two split the proceeds. The most expensive artwork sold from the collection was Mark Rothko’s “No. 7,” which fetched $82.5 million, the second-highest price ever fetched by a piece from the artist at auction.

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This artwork is going to be on the moon 'for eternity' – CNN

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Written by Nadia Leigh-Hewitson, CNN

In 1977, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Their mission was to explore the solar system and beyond. Aboard each was a “golden record,” a copper phonograph disk containing images, sounds from nature, and music to provide a snapshot of life on Earth to any intelligent life the craft might encounter. These were the first images to be sent into outer space.
Now, as the Voyagers travel into interstellar space, artists are beginning to explore what they can do off Earth. In March a piece by Dubai-based artist and philanthropist Sacha Jafri is set to land on the moon.

Jafri’s work, “We Rise Together — By the Light of the Moon,” is scheduled to fly into space on a United Launch Alliance rocket powered by engines developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The launch is scheduled to take place at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the first week of March.

The work is an engraving depicting a male and a female figure surrounded by 88 hearts.

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“The original artwork was this beautiful heart motif. Two figures entwined, reconnecting and around them is blossoming flora, fauna,” explained Jafri. He says he wanted to capture “the unification of humanity through love and empathy” in his design.

"We Rise Together -- By the Light of the Moon," by Sacha Jafri.

“We Rise Together — By the Light of the Moon,” by Sacha Jafri. Credit: Selenian

For his canvas, a gold alloy was developed over two years to withstand the extreme environment on the lunar surface whilst keeping the artwork intact. But the piece isn’t intended only for extraterrestrial art lovers.

“When we land the physical work of art on the moon, a little beep sounds in the control room,” said Jafri. On that signal, 88 NFTs will be released for sale back on Earth.

Jafri plans to donate all proceeds to humanitarian charities. “I’m hoping to raise a huge amount of money for the four main charitable concerns of our world — health, education, sustainability, and equality,” he said.

The work was commissioned by Spacebit, a UK-based company that develops space robotics technology and data analytics tools, and will be sent to the moon by Spacebit and NASA Commercial Payload Services (CLPS). UAE-based company Selenian Network, which specializes in blockchain technologies, will facilitate the launch of the NFTs.

A lunar lander will place the work in a crater known as Lacus Mortis (the Lake of Death) where it will remain “for eternity.” According to Jafri, the mission will take between five days and two weeks to reach the moon, depending on conditions.

Art on the ISS

Jafri’s isn’t the only artwork to leave Earth in recent years. In 2017, a work by Israeli artist Eyal Gever was 3D printed on the International Space Station [ISS]. Gever crowdsourced recordings of laughter and used the sound wave signatures to create his sculpture.

In April last year, another Israeli artist, Liat Segal, and Yasmine Meroz, a physicist at Tel Aviv University, created an artwork that can only exist in space.

Making use of the lack of gravity in space, “Impossible Object” is a tiered structure of gold-colored metal tubes released water. On Earth the water would fall to the ground but in space it created floating elements around the sculpture.

It was activated as the ISS orbited at around 400 kilometers above the Earth. Meroz and Segal had predicted that the water might wrap around the structure, forming a liquid shell, but in practice it behaved quite differently, forming floating orbs.

"Impossible Object," by Liat Segal and Yasmine Meroz.

“Impossible Object,” by Liat Segal and Yasmine Meroz. Credit: Eytan Stibbe and Rakia Art Mission (Ramon Foundation)

“We didn’t know what the dynamics of water will be in microgravity — what does a piece of water look like?” said Segal. “We’re used to filling our hands with water, filling vessels. In this case the water isn’t held by any vessel. It’s only held by this skeleton structure.”

As artists get creative in space, Segal anticipates innovation.

“Many technologies were developed as a result of the space race, to accommodate for a new physical reality,” Segal added. “Now art and culture can enter this new physical reality. It will force the creation of things that we cannot expect, that could not happen otherwise.”

Jafri is also enthused about the creative possibilities and believes private space missions will open up new opportunities for artists. “I think people are tapping into people’s obsession with space,” he said. “It’s a new market for the art world to tap into.”

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Rich Russians’ Art Buying Is Target of US Crackdown on Trade-Sanction Cheats – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — The US crackdown on trade-sanction violators is turning to the art world as authorities track down works bought or sold by ultra-rich Russian tycoons.

Through a series of subpoenas, federal prosecutors in New York are demanding high-end auction houses in the US turn over years of records as they seek to determine if art was smuggled offshore or if proceeds from sales were transferred illegally, according to a person familiar with the investigation. 

Among those named in the subpoenas are sanctioned Russian tycoons Andrey Melnichenko, Viktor Vekselberg and Roman Abramovich, along with Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t yet public. The records requested of auction houses include any previous dealings with the men, according to the person, who didn’t disclose all the companies that were served subpoenas. 

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Of the major auction houses contacted by Bloomberg, Christie’s International Plc said it “cooperates and complies fully with law enforcement as and when we are required to do so.” Phillips Auction House said it has measures in place “to ensure that no individual or institution targeted by sanctions are able to do business directly or indirectly through our salerooms.” Sotheby’s and Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers Corp. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US has expanded sanctions targeting Russian businessmen and companies with ties to Vladamir Putin. That’s led to seizures of luxury assets, from a yacht in the South Pacific to art work in a French gallery. The US Justice Department also plans to seize a Greenwich Village townhouse linked to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

Read more: Art Seized at US Homes Part of Crackdown on Wealthy Russians

With its search of auction houses, the department is looking to track down “professional sanctions evaders” — people who help the wealthy avoid restrictions and launder money. This month, prosecutors charged two men, including a former FBI special agent, with aiding Deripaska and violating sanctions.

According to Georges Lederman, an attorney who specializes art crime and asset forfeiture cases, the crackdown has been the result of greater coordination between the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the sanctions list, and prosecutors trying to stop money laundering. 

“In the past if you violated a sanction, you got a big fine and then you had to implement a more sophisticated anti-money laundering program,” Lederman said. “But now, because of Russia sanctions and heightened awareness, there is a greater referral of money laundering prosecutions.”

In recent months, prosecutors in Manhattan have narrowed the focus of their inquiries, asking about specific artworks bought years ago, as well as some real estate, according to the person familiar with the matter. The probe is being led by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York and the federal KleptoCapture task force, which was set up to police Russian sanctions. A spokesman for KleptoCapture declined to comment. 

$50 Million Monet

Fertilizer tycoon Melnichenko, with a net worth estimated at $12.7 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is said to have purchased Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nympheas” for 40.9 million pounds ($49.6 million) in 2009. Abramovich is Russia’s second-largest steelmaker and previously owned London’s Chelsea Football Club. His ex wife, Daria Zhukova, was a Russian art collector. 

KleptoCapture’s lead prosecutor Andrew Adams told the NYC Bar Association in November that his team was focused on taking “assets off the table” before they could be moved to other jurisdictions.

One such alleged facilitator was UK businessman Graham Bonham-Carter, who was indicted in October and accused of trying to transfer artwork owned by Deripaska, who is under US sanctions. Using a shell company, Deripaska purchased 18 pieces of art at a New York auction in 2008, a decade before he was sanctioned, according to an indictment. The art works were kept in a New York storage facility until Bonham-Carter allegedly try to ship them out of the country in 2021. 

Bonham-Carter is fighting extradition from the UK to the US to face charges. 

In the wake of a 2020 Senate report on sanctions evasion in the art world, major auction houses and private sellers started including as a standard condition in contracts that the buyer or seller not be sanctioned or engaged in criminal activity, said Thomas C. Danziger, a New York-based attorney specializing in art law.

The leading auction houses have implemented voluntary anti-money laundering programs, but that may not be enough to prevent the true owners of art works from shielding themselves themselves behind webs of corporate structures or relatives.

“Putin’s banker is unlikely to walk into a gallery on Madison Avenue and buy a Picasso,” Danziger said. 

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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St. John's International Airport Unveils New Art Installation – VOCM

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St. John’s International Airport has unveiled a brand new art installation to welcome arriving passengers.

The piece, Art Upon Arrival, includes 24 illustrations on eight structural columns in the arrivals area are adorned with brightly colored, graphic images that harken to all things St John’s such as food, plants, nature and music.

Artist Molly Margaret says after an extended period working on the project it’s fun to see public reaction to the piece.

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