Justin Sun, a 31-year-old Chinese tech entrepreneur and the founder of cryptocurrency platform Tron, has been revealed as the buyer of a $20 million Picasso painting at Christie’s in London last week, James Tarmey reports for Bloomberg.
Earlier this month, Sun said that he was the underbidder on the record-breaking NFT by cult digital artist Beeple, which sold for $69 million in an online sale at Christie’s. Sun lost out on the record-breaking NFT to Singapore-based crypto investor Vignesh Sundaresan, also known under his pseudonym MetaKovan. Both of the bidders were new to Christie’s.
During Christie’s London modern and contemporary art sale on March 23, Sun placed the winning bid for Picasso’s 1932 Femme Nue Couchée au Collier (Marie-Thérèse), a nude painting of his first mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, against a bidder represented by Christie’s co-chairman Giovanna Bertazzoni. He bought the work for a premium price of £14.6 million ($20 million). It was estimated at £9 million–£15 million ($12 million–$20.6 million).
Sun’s Picasso purchase is proof that the Beeple NFT sale was a coup for the auction house is more ways than one. Bertazzoni told Bloomberg that the auction house’s team in Asia engaged Sun after the NFT sale to see if he may be interested in offerings of modern and contemporary art. According to her, artists like Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat, and Renoir piqued his interest.
At the March 23 sale, Sun also purchased Andy Warhol’s 1986 Three Self Portraits for £1.5 million ($2 million).
Israeli investor and avid Picasso collector Aaron Frenkel was the seller of the prized Picasso, having purchased it in 2015 at Christie’s for $8.1 million, according to a report by Colin Gleadell for Art Market Monitor. Frenkel was also the seller of another later work from 1962 by the modern master in the same auction. That painting, which depicts Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline Roque, sold for £9.7 million ($13.4 million).