The painting in question is the much-sought-after Card Players (or Les Joueurs des Cartes) by the French post-impressionist painter, Paul Cézanne, which had previously been in the possession of the Greek shipping magnate, George Embiricos. And the buyer? Why, none other than the seriously minted Qatari royal family.
But, if the level of secrecy which surrounded the transaction had surprised the art market cognoscenti, they were to be confounded further by the revelation that the painting had changed hands for a staggering $250 million (£160 million). This huge price tag makes Card Players the most expensive painting ever sold – easily overtaking the previous record (a Jackson Pollack which had been bought by a Mexican financier for $140 million or £90 million).
|Rothko's White Centre|
All this has led to accusations that the Qatari royal family’s immense purchasing power is over-inflating prices in the fine art market, which, thanks to a scarcity of great works in private hands, is already ridiculously expensive.
And while there is some veracity in such sentiments, it should be noted that, unlike the George Embiricoses of the world, the Qataris intend to put their acquisitions on display to the public in Doha. To my mind, that is infinitely more preferable to having a treasure such as Card Players languishing forlornly, unseen and unappreciated, in some dusty private collection far away from an admiring public.