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Oil-rich Qatar pays record $250 million for painting

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In a reminder of the heady days of high-priced art sales, Cezanne’s ‘The Card Players’ has sold for more than $250 million, a record price for any work of art.

But it hasn’t gone to a major museum such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld or the Barnes Foundation. Those institutions already own works from Cezanne’s series depicting card players. This one is owned by the oil-rich country of Qatar.

Word just leaked out on the 2011 sale from a private collector, and was reported by Vanity Fair’s website. The sale price leaves the old record -- reportedly $140 million paid for a Jackson Pollock in the pre-recession year of 2006 -- in the dust.

Yes, '$250 million is a fortune,’ fine arts appraiser Victor Wiener told Vanity Fair. ‘But you take any art-history course and a ‘Card Players’ is likely in it. It’s a major, major image.’

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The sale had been rumored for months, he told the magazine, and now ‘everyone will use this price as a point of departure; it changes the whole art-market structure.’

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ‘The Card Players’ depicts four men and is believed to be the first in the series by the French post-Impressionist. Next came a larger version, which includes a small child, in the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. The last three depict just two card players.

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-- Sherry Stern


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