Bloomberg tries to mock Liu Yiqian for his attention-seeking art buying but reveals in the process why the self-made man is free from China’s corruption crackdown:
“I’m not nervous at all, because all my wealth is out in the open and there is nothing to worry about,” Liu says in an interview in one of his Shanghai museums. “Every country has experienced an anti-corruption campaign at some time.” […]
Liu remains unruffled as week by week, more cases of fraud, corruption and tax evasion are announced by the state. Some targets are officials who flouted expensive lifestyles, with Rolex watches, lavish dinners and even Ferraris — acquisitions beyond their official salaries.
Private business owners, who invariably have to deal with state companies and officials, have also mostly scaled back on public displays of wealth, even when, as in Liu’s case, there haven’t been any allegations that it was misgotten. In 2012, Liu was investigated as part of a nationwide probe into tax evasion connected with art imports, but wasn’t charged or fined, according to Zoe Zhu, head of public relations at his museum.
It doesn’t hurt that he enjoys excellent relations with the Shanghai municipal government, which sold him subsidized land in order to build his second art repository, Long Museum West Bund, which opened last year.
It may also help that Chinese authorities and the public have tended to be supportive of collectors like Liu who spend millions on repatriating cultural artifacts from abroad. Thousands of sculptures, Imperial ceramics and jade carvings were looted by foreign troops, or removed to Taiwan and Hong Kong by Chinese fleeing the communists during the last century.
And for all the ire generated by Liu’s irreverence, for many, he still represents a Chinese ideal, the self-made man who hasn’t forgotten his roots.
The Expensive Antics of China’s Gaudiest Billionaire (Bloomberg Business)