Well, it sort of was … but then it really wasn’t. The Paul Gauguin painting titled Nafea faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) sold for a whopping $300 million in 2015, making it the “world’s most expensive painting”–supposedly.
However, that title has now be revoked because the painting didn’t actually sell for that price. In fact, it sold for $90 million less, at $210 million. This means it no longer holds rank with Willem de Kooning’s Interchange, which The New York Times reported sold for $300 million to the founder of Citadel, Kenneth C. Griffin, in 2016.
So what caused such a costly mishap? Mick Jagger did–the “Mick Jagger of Art Auctions,” that is.
The ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’
A lawsuit filed by art dealer Simon de Pury (aka Art-Mick Jagger) over a $10 million commission from the sale has revealed the real purchase price of the Gauguin painting, according to an article published by The Telegraph.
The study of two Tahitian girls painted by Gauguin circa 1892 was sold by Rudolph Staechelin, a retired Sotheby’s executive, to the royal family of Qatar in 2014. But de Pury laid down some serious groundwork starting back in 2012. And, he says a “gentleman’s agreement” was put in place to pay him handsomely for the sale.
In fact, The Telegraph reports the purchase was finalized following a series of meetings between de Pury and Guy Bennett, a former Christie’s expert who now buys art on behalf of the Emir of Qatar. And, after discussing the potential sale with Bennett, de Pury approached Staechelin–an old school friend–to see if he had any interest in selling the painting.
“At that point, [Staechelin] said he would not sell for less than $250 million, and negotiations stalled,” notes The Telegraph. “They resumed in 2014, and the sale went through; but [de] Pury’s commission never materialized.”
According to Staechelin’s claims made to the court, de Pury “lured him to the table by saying the Qataris were willing to pay $230 million,” continues The Telegraph. “[And] de Pury claims that he put the $230 million figure to [Bennett], but it was rejected due to the ‘changing tastes’ of the Qataris.”
The Gauguin painting had been in the Staechelin’s family for over 100 years.