Ken Griffin spent $500 million on two paintings: Sources

Most expensive piece of contemporary art ever sold
Most expensive piece of contemporary art ever sold

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin bought two paintings over the summer for a combined $500 million, believed to be the highest prices ever paid for works of contemporary art, according to art experts.

Art industry experts close to the deal say Griffin, who's been on a real estate and art shopping spree over the past year, bought Willem de Kooning's masterpiece "Interchange," along with Jackson Pollock's "Number 17A," in a private transaction.

The works were sold by billionaire art collector and media mogul David Geffen. Because the pieces were bought as a pair, the individual prices for each painting have not been broken out.

Griffin declined to comment. But back in November, months after the hedge fund mogul reportedly purchased these pieces of art, he told CNBC there was "cause for concern" about soaring prices in the art market.

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Reports of the purchase also come the same day as a story in The Wall Street Journal, which said Griffin's Citadel hedge fund is trimming its investment division after losses early this year. The company confirmed the layoffs to CNBC.

Art industry experts say the de Kooning would likely be the most expensive contemporary work of art ever sold, and the second most expensive work of art ever sold. Paul Gauguin's "When Will You Marry" is believed to hold the overall record, after being sold to an unknown buyer last year for an estimated $300 million.

Both the de Kooning and Pollock pieces have been on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago since September. They will remain there on view to the public "for the foreseeable future," according to art experts.

Griffin has spent more than $300 million on personal real estate over the past two years, including a $200 million apartment in New York and a $60 million penthouse in Miami, which he has now put back on the market for $73 million.

He settled his divorce from Anne Dias Griffin in October for an undisclosed sum.