19 May 2019

Wanda’s growing appetite for fine arts

A cool 172 million yuan (US$28.2 million). That’s the amount of money China commercial realty juggernaut Wanda Group splurged at a Christie’s evening sale held in New York last month. The firm outbid 11 overseas buyers and finally bagged Pablo Picasso’s Claude et Paloma, a whimsical, large-scale painting of the master’s own children, after 30 rounds of bidding.

To many, the price, far surpassing the original estimate of US$9-12 million, may appear to be unreasonably high as the work is not regarded as Picasso’s magnum opus. But not to Wanda.

A senior company executive told China Economic Weekly that the timing “just couldn’t be better” for the group to snap up western artworks as the market is just emerging from a slump with prices still hovering near lows for the most part — the US$28.2 million deal was a real bargain as Wanda otherwise might have had to pay more in previous years.

Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin {王健林}, also China’s richest man this year according to Forbes, dismissed concerns over the highest price paid by a Chinese company for a painting in an overseas auction, noting that his company was prepared to splash up to US$50 million for it. The firm also bought another Picasso painting at the cost of more than US$2.7 million.

Also on the radar of the firm are works by Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne.

Citing a source close to the group, China Business News reports that Wanda has leased a 500 square meter vault for the storage of thousands of artwork from its collection, most of which are paintings by contemporary Chinese masters like Pan Tianshou {潘天壽}, Fu Baoshi {傅抱石} and Wu Guanzhong {吳冠中}, that were bought over the past three decades with a combined value said to be well over 10 billion yuan.

When interviewed by China Central Television’s Finance Channel, Wang declined to confirm the figure but reiterated that the purchase, and possibly many more in the future, is just his personal hobby and the “petty profits” from the art business is quite immaterial to him.

Wang also noted that his group would be levied a hefty amount of 40 million yuan – 17 percent value added tax and 6 percent tariff – when these paintings are shipped back home for roving exhibitions at the group’s 82 Wanda Plazas nationwide.

These events featuring works by art masters can certainly attract more visitors to the group’s commercial properties, and as such, the investment is worthwhile, he said.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]






EJ Insight writer

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