Doha, 3 February 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).
Even way back in May there was a rumour around the art world that a painting by Cézanne entitled Les Joueurs de Cartes (The card players) had been bought for the colossal sum of $250 million, which would have made it the most expensive piece of art in history. The rumour continued, but seemingly the buyer remained anonymous, until now. The buyer has been revealed to the public: the Arab state of Qatar.
In 2003, the Cézanne work appeared in second position in a list of the most desirable works of art in the world composed by Artnews. The French painter created four other paintings of card players over the course of his career, which are all part of the collections of extremely prestigious institutions: Musée d’Orsay, New York MET, Barnes Foundation and Courtauld Art Institute.
With this acquisition, Qatar has not only come into possession of a Post-impressionist painting, but a veritable piece of the History of Art. The Card Players heralded the arrival of Cubism and several other artistic movements. Pablo Picasso himself called Cézanne “the father of us all”.
The painting had been in the possession of George Embiricos, a Greek billionaire who passed away at the beginning of 2011. He began negotiations which his heirs had continued with the help of auctioneers and art dealers. It has been reported that two dealers offered $220 million for the masterpiece, but the Qatari royal family put them out of the running when they offered $250 million for it. The company GPS Partners, Inc (Giraud, Pissaro, Ségalot) acted as broker in order to facilitate the sale. This was not the first time that GPS Partners, Inc have had dealings with the world’s third largest natural gas producer, having previously acted as middleman between them and the Claude Berri and Sonnabend collections.
The previous record for most paid for a work was $135 million for a 1907 Klimt entitled Adele Bloch-Bauer I, in New York. The record for the most paid at auction goes to a Picasso, Nu au plateau de sculpteur, which was sold for $106 million in May 2010.
With this purchase, Qatar demonstrates its vibrant cultural policy and reaffirms its wish to become a renowned world centre for art.
This sale confirms the position of The Art Newspaper, which revealed in one of its articles in 2011 that Qatar is the biggest buyer of modern and contemporary art in the world. The most recent example of this to date, was a Richard Serra sculpture entitled 7, bought by the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). The figures show that the United States cultural exports to Qatar totalled $428,162,894 between 2005 and 2011, with a peak in 2007, when Qatar bought the celebrated Rothko, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), (1950) for the sum of $72.8 million.
Other signs of this cultural policy include the growing number of museums in the country, the opening of the MIA in 2008 and the current renovation of the Arab Museum of Modern Art by Jean Nouvel.
Which collection the Cézanne will join is yet to be revealed, as no one has yet officially announced the sale of the painting. Edward Dolman was recently named director general of the Qatar Museum Authority, and is responsible for the acquisition and preservation of the state’s collections. Dolman will almost certainly decide to display this work.