Sale of Swiss-owned Gauguin painting shrouded in secrecy
Feb. 07, 2015
BERLIN (AP) — A painting by French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin has reportedly sold for a record-breaking sum, but its erstwhile owner won't reveal the price or buyer.
The oil painting, called "Nafea faa ipoipo?" — Tahitian for "When will you marry?" — and showing two Tahitian women, had belonged to the Swiss family Staehelin for almost 100 years. Earlier this week, Swiss media citing unidentified art world insiders reported that the 1892 painting was bought by Qatari royalty for $300 million, making it the most expensive painting ever.
Ruedi Staehelin, who speaks for the Staehelin Family Trust, would only confirm the sale.
"The contract has been signed, the sale and handover will take place in January 2016," Staehelin said in an email Saturday to The Associated Press. "According to the contract I can't provide any information on the buyer or the price."
In an interview with Swiss paper Basler Zeitung, however, Staehelin was quoted as saying about the price: "It's clear that it isn't just a figure in the double-digit millions."
The sale was prompted by the current boom on the art market, he told the newspaper.
Qatar Museums, run by the emirate's royal family, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The painting is currently exhibited at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near the northwestern Swiss city of Basel. Before the sale is completed next year it is also scheduled to be shown in Madrid and Washington, the Basler Zeitung reported.
The Kunstmuseum Basel, where the painting had been deposited, said it regretted the sale and the Staehelin Family Trust's simultaneous decision to withdraw other works loaned to its collection.
"These works, which had been integral to our exhibitions, will be sorely missed at the Kunstmuseum, and we are painfully reminded that permanent loans are still loans," the museum said in a statement.
Staehelin's grandfather, Swiss businessman and art collector Rudolf Staehelin, had purchased the painting in 1917 from the Geneva gallery Maison Moos. The family trust has previously sold paintings by Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne.
Jill Lawless in London and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.