Couple behind Shanghai's Long Museum to sell part of their collection at Sotheby's

Couple behind Shanghai's Long Museum to sell part of their collection at Sotheby's

It is not yet clear what has spurred the Long Museum's founder Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei to sell off a part of their collection.

A decade ago, Liu Yiqian, began turning heads in the art market by paying tens of millions of dollars for Chinese art with his credit card. As the Long Museum in Shanghai, which he co-founded with his wife Wang Wei, transformed into China’s leading private institution, the power couple became market makers at the highest level in Western art as well. In 2015, the two acquired Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (Reclining Nude)for a record $170.4 million at a Christie’s sale in New York.

Now the couple is poised to send shock waves through the art market again—but this time as major sellers.

Liu and Wang asked Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips to pitch for a group of Western modern, postwar, and contemporary art valued at about $150 million (in excess of HK$1 billion), according to people familiar with their plans. Sotheby’s won the bid, the people said.

The consignment arrives just as the art market braces for a slower pace. Global auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips fell 22.7 percent in the first six months of 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to Artnet Price Database. Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is struggling to recover from the prolonged Covid lockdown, the country’s property market is in shambles.

Sotheby’s said it will offer around 50 works, including those by Modigliani, Zao Wou-ki, René Magritte, David Hockney, Matthew Wong, and Yayoi Kusama. The auction house didn’t specify what works will be included.

The museum is not closing its doors, well known sources confirm.

But the couple has been keeping a relatively low profile in recent years and their art purchases have slowed down, according to people familiar with their activity.

Proceeds from the forthcoming sales are “destined to further initiatives at the Long museum” and will also fund future acquisitions.

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