The Economist traces the global migration of the YSL/Bergé collection. Sarah Thornton points out that M. Bergé cleverly donated two works–one to the Louvre and another to the Musee D’Orsay–to French museums to forestall government interference in the sale (through the denial of export licenses for works considered cultural patrimony.) Even so, three lower-priced works were pre-empted by two French museums.
In the end, the Gulf States don’t seem to be the destination of that many of the prized works. Americans were said to be the bidders on the Duchamp and Thornton shows that only two works were visibly bought by Middle Eastern collectors:
The top lot of the night was Henri Matisse’s splendid still life, “Les Coucous, Tapis Bleu et Rose” (pictured). Mr Giraud won again, outbidding Alain Tarica, whose father, Sammy, had sold the very same Matisse to Mr Bergé and Mr Saint Laurent back in 1979. At the elevated price of €36m, many assumed that the painting, which is Islamic in spirit, must have gone to either Qatar or Abu Dhabi, the two royal families rumoured to be represented in the room, but the consultants maintain that the buyer was European in the strict sense, rather than “European” by Christie’s definition, which seems to include anyone with freeport storage in Geneva.
Despite the talk of Middle Eastern museum-builders, only two lots provided concrete evidence of Arab buying on the first night. Wafic Saïd, a Syrian-born Saudi businessman and philanthropist; and Samir Traboulsi, a Lebanese financier, were sitting together towards the front of the room. Collectors close by say that it was Mr Saïd who bought Juan Gris’s “Le Violon” of 1913 and Fernand Leger’s “Le Damier Jaune” of 1918 for the relatively reasonable total sum of €7.6m.
Bull for a Night (Economist)