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Here’s The Most Expensive Painting Ever Sold

A Gauguin painting broke the price record this week, selling for nearly $300 million

(Leemage/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

If you want to be a player in the fine art world, it doesn’t hurt to have deep pockets. And with news that a Gauguin painting just sold for nearly $300 million—nearly 25 percent higher than the last most expensive painting ever sold—the world of art collection just got a bit pricier.

Scott Rayburn and Doreen Carvajal report for the New York Times that an art collector has sold “Nafea Faa Ipoipo (Who Will You Marry?),” a Gauguin portrait with a contentious past. The painting was long owned by Rudolf Staechelin, a former Sotheby’s exec with an important of collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionistic paintings. Staechlin’s family lent to the Kunstmuseum Basel for almost 50 years, but when he got in a dispute with the museum administration over the terms of the precious loan, he decided to pull the entire collection from the museum.

So who paid the never-before-seen price for the Gauguin? It’s generally believed to be a museum in Qatar, which has gained a reputation (and raised some eyebrows) for its addiction to acquiring expensive pieces art. Neither the seller nor the museum will confirm where the piece is headed, but the painting will remain on display in Basel and a traveling exhibition until it is handed over to its new owner in January.

“In a way it’s sad,” Staechlin told the New York Times, “but on the other hand, it’s a fact of life. Private collections are like private persons. They don’t live forever.” That’s become painfully clear to residents of Basel, who are mourning the loss of a painting that’s been with them for half a century. “We are painfully reminded that permanent loans are still loans,” said the museum in a statement.

While Basel licks its wounds, art collectors are licking their chops as prices continue to rise. Meanwhile, art museums have other worries—Mashable reports that the rise of the selfie stick has spooked museums looking to preserve their priceless collections, spurring bans in a number of museums nationwide.

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