Paul Cezanne (you know, the Post-Impressionist dude who had a thing for fruit) produced a number of oil paintings (known collectively as The Card Players series) that captured the locals playing some relaxing table games. There are five paintings in all, four or which are held by various museums in the U.S., Paris, and London.
The fifth painting, owned by a recently-deceased Greek shipping magnate, was, it turns out, purchased sometime last year by the oil-rich nation of Qatar for $250 million. (Qatar is that place with the weird architecture where God goes when he needs a loan.) This is the art-world equivalent of Barry Bonds hitting seventy-three bombs. The Qatari royal family tried to keep the numbers hush-hush, but it was confirmed by a number of well-placed sources.
The purchase shatters the previous record amount paid for a painting at auction, which was $106.5 million for a Picasso at Christie's last year. And as far as non-auction records, the relatively skinflinty $140 million paid for a Jackson Pollock in 2006 is also left in the dust. Fine-art appraiser Victor Wiener said, "Now, everyone will use this price as a point of departure: it changes the whole art-market structure."
The rich little sovereign state off the Arabian Peninsula has been gobbling up Rothkos, Warhols, Hirsts, and other major works of art the last few years in their quest to be an international cultural mecca. Last November, the Emir's daughter, who's chair of the board of the Qatar Museums Authority, was named the most powerful person in the art world by Art & Auction magazine, and Qatar is now an absolute modern-art powerhouse with an unlimited budget to acquire whatever they want.