Chinese Movie Mogul Wang Zhongjun Snaps Up $30 Million Picasso at Goldwyn Sale

The portrait of Francoise Gilot was purchased in 1956 by Samuel Goldwyn Sr.

Pablo Picasso, Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil (1948).
Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.
Pablo Picasso, Femme au Chignon Dans un Fauteuil (1948).

Pablo Picasso, Femme au Chignon Dans un Fauteuil (1948).
Photo: courtesy the estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Sotheby’s.

Chinese movie tycoon Wang Zhongjun was the buyer of the $29.9 million Pablo Picasso canvas auctioned off from the Goldwyn family collection on Tuesday at Sotheby’s New York, the auction house has announced.

The 1948 canvas, titled Femme au Chignon Dans un Fauteuil, or “Woman with a hairbun on a sofa,” a portrait of the artist’s lover Françoise Gilot was purchased in 1956 by Samuel Goldwyn Sr., founder of the Goldwyn Hollywood film dynasty and the G in M.G.M.

Following the death of producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. earlier this year, the Goldwyn collection will be featured in no less than nine Sotheby’s auctions by year’s end (see Goldwyn Film Family to Sell $30 Million Collection at Sotheby’s, Led by Picasso and Matisse).

Zhongjun already made headlines this past year when he picked up Vincent van Gogh‘s 1890 painting Still Life, Vase with Daises and Poppies for $61.8 million (see Chinese Film Magnate Buys Van Gogh for $62 Million). The media mogul chairman and co-founder of Huayi Brothers Media Group, a major Chinese movie company, is one of his country’s richest men. Recently, he has become more involved in Western cinema, financing Fury, starring Brad Pitt.

Sotheby’s played up the Goldwyn family’s Hollywood connections during the sale, displaying two of the family’s Oscars at the auction preview, although the gold-plated statuettes were not available for purchase.

Pablo Picasso, <em>Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil</em> (1948), on display in April at Sotheby's office in London, alongside a pair of Oscars (not for sale).  Photo: Mary Turner/Getty Images for Sotheby's.

Pablo Picasso, Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil (1948), on display in April at Sotheby’s office in London, alongside a pair of Oscars (not for sale).
Photo: Mary Turner/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

“You’re not just buying a Picasso. You’re buying a collecting vision of someone’s personal taste,” Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s co-head of Impressionist and modern art worldwide, told the New York Times.

While that might seem like an exaggerated claim, Zhongjun appears to have drank the Kool-Aid with his purchase, considerably exceeding the $18 million pre-sale estimate.

“I first fell in love with the painting and then I fell in love with its story,” the collector said in a statement. “The Goldwyn family is legendary in our industry and in this one work, I can see not only Pablo Picasso’s genius, but also Samuel Goldwyn Sr.’s creative vision.”

The Impressionist and modern art sale also featured a work from the Goldwyn collection, Henri Matisse’s Anémones et Grenades (1946), a still life that fetched $6.1 million from an anonymous buyer. Overall, that auction brought in $368 million (see Led by $66 Million Van Gogh, Sotheby’s $368 Million Impressionist and Modern Sale Robustly Kicks Off Season).

The Goldwyn sale may have gotten a boost from being presented on a week that was a lot less cluttered by sales thanks to Christie’s unorthodox decision to hold all of its sales next week (see Why Is Christie’s Shaking Up Its Spring Auction Schedule?). “It’s wonderful to be selling in a week when we’re the only game in town,” Shaw noted. “It really focused people’s attention.”

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