Who bought the Picasso?

picasso.jpgChristie's won't reveal the person who spent a record $106.5 million on "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," the prized Picasso that was purchased from the estate of the L.A. philanthropist Frances Lasker Brody. But the NYT offers up the usual suspects - Ken Griffin of Citadel Investment Group, Steven Cohen of SAC Capital, and Russian financier Roman Abramovich. Actually, there's any number of possibilities - and not only hedge fund types. Think Russia, China, and the Middle East. From Reuters Breaking Views:

There were unsold pieces at Tuesday's auction, suggesting that any bubble in the art market is concentrated around stars like Picasso. That, too, stands to reason, particularly in a period where currencies are perceived to be vulnerable to sovereign mishap or rising inflation. As financial theorists argue, specie backing for money does not have to have any intrinsic value, just a shared appreciation. And so the global financial elite have found their store of value -- in a nude mistress from Paris.

Things apparently got heated the other night, with the bids going on for more than 8 minutes (guess that's a lot). But Holland Carter in the NYT found the auction a little ho-hum.

These days so much money is in so many hands, and so many of those hands are after trophy art, that record breaking has become routine, de rigueur. Two, three, four million extra? Worth it. After all, if you're the evening's big spender, you not only get to own an object you've just helped to make fantastically valuable, but your extravagance, with your name attached or not, also buys a mention in the news. You could lay out the same bucks for a hospital wing, but it wouldn't be the same.

By the way, Picasso completed Nude, Green Leaves, etc. in a single day. Even assuming it took him the full 24 hours, that's about $4.4 million an hour. The hedge fund guys would have trouble matching that.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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