Sam Knight has a long, detailed story in The New Yorker on the Bouvier-Rybolovlev affair that is brimful with overweening boasts from both men (and a few subsidiary art dealers for good measure too.) The long read won’t change much of your view of either man in the broad strokes. And if Bouvier thought cooperating with this story was an opportunity to improve his public profile, it is not clear that he will be gratified.
For our purposes, there are a few important and interesting points made:
Bouvier did establish himself as the other party in the trade:
The first four paintings that Bouvier sold to Rybolovlev were covered by contracts drawn up by Lenz & Staehelin, one of Switzerland’s largest law firms. The contracts listed Bouvier, through a Hong Kong-based company named M.E.I. Invest, as the “Seller” and Mikhail Sazonov, who was the director of Rybolovlev’s family trusts, as the “Buyer.” Personal invoices from Bouvier, covering what he called his frais habituels—his usual costs—arrived separately.
Rybolovlev was buying from Bouvier because he thought he possessed inside information from the storage and shipping business:
He was impressed by Natural Le Coultre’s premises in the freeport, which put Bouvier in contact with the owners of expensive art works. “He had insider information,” Rybolovlev said. “He knew the collectors without intermediaries. He knew what was where.
Bouvier denies this:
Bouvier insists that he never used confidential information from his logistics business to buy and sell paintings. None of the thirty-five works that he sold Rybolovlev were in storage with Natural Le Coultre. “I have the information not because I am a shipper,” he said. “It is because I am clever.”
Most important of all, it would appear that Bouvier used the capital from his dealing with Rybolovlev to build the freeports in Singapore and Luxembourg:
The income from his dealing enabled Bouvier to expand his storage facilities. For several years, he had been looking to build a freeport outside Europe similar to the one in Geneva. In 2005, he settled on Singapore. In 2008, Bouvier decided to base himself in the country as well. The Singapore Freeport, which required new legislation to be passed by the national parliament, opened in 2010. Bouvier put Tony Reynard, his childhood friend, in charge. The freeport, which abuts the city’s international airport, is an over-engineered hybrid of vault and temple. It cost Bouvier a hundred million dollars to build. At first, no bank would finance it. “They thought we were loonies,” Reynard said.
The Art-World Insider Who Went Too Far (The New Yorker)