Power Lunch

Power Lunch

$179 million Picasso buyer still at large

Pablo Picasso's “Les femmes d’Alger (Version O)”
Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images

Questions continue to swirl about the buyer of Pablo Picasso's "Femmes d'Alger" (Version "O") at Christie's New York last week.

Sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $179 million dollars, the Picasso canvas shattered all previous records for the most expensive artwork ever purchased at auction.

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Reports Thursday identified former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Than as the buyer.

But sources tell CNBC's "Power Lunch" say the Qatari billionaire is "definitely not" the deep-pocketed collector of this painting.

So who was it?

As it stands, there are only a few dozen individuals and institutions in the world that can afford works in this lofty price range, including billionaire financier Leon Black, who purchased Edvard Munch's "The Scream" for $119 million at Sotheby's in 2012.

Black is the founder of Apollo Global Management and sits on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

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In 2014, Elaine Wynn, ex-wife of Wynn Resort mogul Steve Wynn was identified as the buyer of Francis Bacon's triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," for $142.4 million at Christie's. Ms. Wynn has a net worth of nearly $1.9 billion.

At the time of the Bacon sale, other names mistakenly linked as the mystery collector included Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Qatari royal family member Sheikha Mayassa.

The previous owner of the Picasso, widely considered the artist's masterpiece, was identified by Christie's as "distinguished private European collection."

The painting last sold in 1997 for $31.9 million dollars

Christie's was contacted for this story but did not disclose the identity of the Picasso buyer.

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