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Tokyo Magnate Bought 2 Paintings : Artworks: Says he borrowed and would have topped $160 million to buy works of Van Gogh and Renoir.

From Times Wire Services

A 74-year-old Japanese paper magnate revealed today that it was he who purchased Renoir’s “Au Moulin de la Galette” for $78.1 million Thursday--two days after paying a record $82.5 million for Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet.”

Ryoei Saito, who listed his income last year as $16.6 million, said he borrowed money to buy the masterpieces at two auctions in New York.

“I borrowed the money from the bank, and I will continue to do it to buy good art when it becomes available,” he said.

Saito is the chairman emeritus of Japan’s second-largest paper company, Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Corp.

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Saito, obviously pleased with his new possessions, invited Japanese journalists into his home in central Tokyo to discuss the purchases.

After paying a total of $160.6 million for the world’s two most expensive paintings, Saito said he had been prepared to go even higher.

“I told the dealers $100 million (per painting) was the ceiling,” he said.

“I am very happy. Once you like something, go all the way,” Saito said.

Asked about criticism that his record bids will push up prices on masterpieces, Saito said: “I don’t know. It depends on the time frame you are talking about, when cheap and expensive are discussed. I don’t think prices are expensive.”

“I have heard a lot of criticism (about pushing up the price of artwork), but if I did not buy them now, they would never have come to Japan,” Saito said.

“The people will understand the value of my purchases in 50 or 100 years,” he added.

Saito said he had not expected to win the auctions. “They are world-class, wonderful works,” he said.

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After the Van Gogh purchase, Saito had told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper: “It cost ($33 million) more than I expected, but that’s nothing. Next I want the Renoir.”

Saito said he wants to display the Van Gogh in a museum he hopes to build to show the work of Ikuo Hirayama, perhaps the most famous of Japan’s living painters, and will put the Renoir in a museum in his home state of Shizuoka.

Saito, a well-known art collector in Japan, inherited his father’s fortune built around Daishowa Paper and extensive real estate holdings.

Saito acknowledged that he borrowed money for the paintings but said the funds did not come from the paper company.

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Saito, president of Daishowa from 1961 to 1982, relinquished control after his company incurred large debts. The company went back on a firm footing after Sumitomo Bank took the reins of management.

But Saito suddenly cut business ties with Sumitomo in 1986 and reassumed executive control, despite the title of honorary chairman.

Asked what he will do with a Rodin sculpture he also bought this week, he said:

“It was only ($1.6 million). That’s for my yard.”

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