Some have taken the anecdote Carol Vogel included in her story on the Bunny Mellon collection coming up at Sotheby’s to be an example of art investment versus “old-style collecting.” It would be hard to imagine that Pinault bought the Rothkos for the potential profit. After all, he controls a $21bn company that generates far more profit than he could ever do with art flipping:
While neither he nor Franck Giraud, the art adviser to Mrs. Mellon, would discuss specifics, both said that she was angry with Christie’s owner, François Pinault. In 2002, she agreed to sell him three Rothko paintings for around $25 million. They had been on loan to the National Gallery since the early 1970s, and Mrs. Mellon parted with them only after Mr. Pinault contractually promised to exhibit them in what was to be his foundation for contemporary art on the Île Seguin, in Paris.
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But when his plans for the space in Paris fell apart, Mr. Pinault moved the project to the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, where the works were on view only once. Two years ago, he sold one of the paintings, “Untitled (Blue, Green, and Brown),” from 1952, to Steven A. Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire, for more than twice what Mr. Pinault paid for all three paintings, according to dealers familiar with the transaction. Last year, he sold a second, “Yellow and Blue” from 1954.
Nazanine Ravaï, Mr. Pinault’s chief of staff, said that the Rothkos were to be displayed in Paris, but that they did not fit with the programming in Italy, and there was no permanent place to house them. Mr. Pinault, she said, plans to keep the third Rothko.
Bunny Mellon’s Keen Eye Is a Boon to Sotheby’s (NYTimes.com)