Source: NYT (5/29/23)
The Mystery of the Disappearing van Gogh
After a painting by the Dutch artist sold at auction, a movie producer claimed to be the owner. It later vanished from sight, with a trail leading to Caribbean tax havens and a jailed Chinese billionaire.
By Michael Forsythe, Isabelle Qian, Muyi Xiao and Vivian Wang
The bidding for Lot 17 started at $23 million.
In the packed room at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, the price quickly climbed: $32 million, $42 million, $48 million. Then a new prospective buyer, calling from China, made it a contest between just two people.
On the block that evening in November 2014 were works by Impressionist painters and Modernist sculptors that would make the auction the most successful yet in the firm’s history. But one painting drew particular attention: “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” completed by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death.
Pushing the price to almost $62 million, the Chinese caller prevailed. His offer was the highest ever for a van Gogh still life at auction.
In the discreet world of high-end art, buyers often remain anonymous. But the winning bidder, a prominent movie producer, would proclaim in interview after interview that he was the painting’s new owner. Continue reading