China's richest man snaps up $28 million Picasso art


Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, founded by the country's richest man Wang Jianlin, snapped up a Picasso painting for $28.2 million at a Christie's auction in New York – more than double the high-end estimate for the piece of art.

The painting, "Claude et Paloma", a 1950 portrait of the artist's two youngest children, was expected to fetch between $9 million to $12 million.

There were 11 international bidders for the painting, starting from $8 million, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

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"I think that its decently priced, and I'm very satisfied with it. Wanda Group wants to keep these great pieces of art. Be it locally produced Chinese art work, or Western ones, as long as they possess originality, and represent individualism, they will be considered for the collection," Guo Qingxiang, who is in charge of Dalian Wanda's art collection, told CNBC.

The painting is the company's first major piece of Western artwork, Guo said, noting that Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet are among the other artists he is looking at.

The work was part of Christie's sale of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the estate of Jan Krugier – the Geneva-based art dealer who died in 2008 – held on November 4. Sales at the evening auction totaled $92.5 million; however, that was well below its presale estimate range of $158 million and $224 million.

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A representative from Dalian Wanda Group was not present at the auction. Instead, the bid was made over the telephone via Rebecca Wei, managing director of Christie's Asia, the auction house told CNBC.

59-year-old Wang, the chairman and founder of Dalian Wanda Group, is estimated to have a personal fortune of $22 billion, according to the Hurun Report.

Wang has made his wealth in property, owning a 61 percent stake in the company's real estate arm, according to Hurun. In addition to real estate, Dalian Wanda has been building up its entertainment business; it acquired U.S. movie theater chain AMC Theatres last year to become the world's largest cinema operator.

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China has become a key market for foreign auction houses with its growing pool of wealthy new buyers. Last year, $4.6 billion worth of art and antiques were sold in the domestic auction market, according to its Ministry of Commerce.

In September, Christie's hosted its first auction in the mainland, selling $25 million worth or art, jewelry, watches and wine. While this was a fraction of the $6.27 billion in global sales the company saw in 2012, it is part of the auction house's efforts to tap the lucrative art market.

Additional reporting by CNBC's Teresa Goh

—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H