So much of the response to the $104m sale of a Giacometti sculpture in London this month revolved around speculation that the buyer was new money from an emerging market. Several commentators went so far as to declare the buyer was someone who didn’t understand the value of the art itself just because of the out-sized price. Even in
Scott Reyburn’s Bloomberg story revealing Lily Safra, widow of billionaire Edmond Safra, as the buyer, Philip Hoffman of the fine art fund is quoted saying the next statue in the edition will sell for £20m and that the work is not an investment piece at that price. Perhaps Mrs. Safra bought at $104m because she wanted to own the piece, not for the financial return:
The Hong Kong-based real-estate developer Joseph Lau was among the unsuccessful telephone bidders, Rachel Kong, the businessman’s personal assistant, said in an e-mail on Feb. 23. “Our last bid was indeed much higher than the high estimate of Sotheby’s, though in vain eventually,” Kong said.
Two London-based dealers, speaking independently and anonymously to Bloomberg News, have identified the buyer as Safra. “The sculpture has been delivered to her place in Belgravia,” said the first of these dealers, who has contacts with the shippers who transported the piece.
The second dealer said that Safra had become interested in buying the Giacometti after her negotiations for the private purchase of another cast of “Walking Man I” from a dealer had fallen through prior to the auction. This other version had been priced at about $45 million to $50 million, said the dealer.