Art And Culture

Billionaire Pays $500m for 2 Paintings

Billionaire Pays $500m for 2 PaintingsBillionaire Pays $500m for 2 Paintings

Billionaire Ken Griffin paid about $500 million for two paintings by abstract expressionist masters in one of the largest private art deals ever, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Griffin, founder of Chicago-based hedge fund firm Citadel, bought works by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning from David Geffen’s foundation, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

The deal, completed in the fall, is a record for both artists and exceeds the last high mark for a private sale, the $300 million that Qatar Museums paid for Paul Gauguin’s painting “When Will You Marry?” Griffin’s purchase preceded a slowdown in the art market in the second half of 2015. Sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London earlier this month fell from a year ago, reported.

“In order to own the greatest art historical objects of our time one has to go above and beyond to obtain them,” said Abigail Asher, a partner at art advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates Inc. in New York, who wasn’t involved in the transaction.

Zia Ahmed, a spokesperson for Citadel, declined to comment.

Griffin bought de Kooning’s 1955 oil on canvas titled “Interchanged” for about $300 million and Pollock’s 1948 “Number 17A” canvas for about $200 million. The de Kooning fetched $20.7 million in 1989, then an auction record for the artist and more than three times the highest pre-sale estimate of $6 million, according to Artnet, which tracks auction prices. Pollock’s work was featured in a 1949 Life magazine article that helped make him a household name.

Both paintings went on display at the Art Institute of Chicago in September 2015, said Amanda Hicks, director of public affairs at the museum. Griffin has been a trustee since 2004 and helped build the museum’s Modern wing.  

“Masterpieces in their own right, the two paintings had a tremendous impact at the moment of their making,” James Rondeau, director of the Art Institute of Chicago, said in an e-mail.

On Feb. 17 art industry newsletter Baer Faxt published an unconfirmed report of the Griffin transaction. It didn’t name Griffin or Geffen.

Griffin -- who has a net worth of $5.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index -- has been turning heads with art, real estate and philanthropic efforts.