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1 Man, 2 Paintings: $160.6 Million

From Times wire reports

Retired Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito spent $160.6 million on art this week and now lays claim to the two most expensive paintings in the world.

The 74-year-old Saito, chairman emeritus of Japan’s second-largest paper company, on Tuesday paid $82.5 million at Christie’s for Vincent van Gogh’s melancholy “Portrait of Dr. Gachet.”

He followed that with Thursday’s purchase at Sotheby’s of Pierre Auguste Renoir’s shimmering “Au Moulin de la Galette” for $78.1 million.

The final price eclipsed the pre-sale estimate of $40 million to $50 million.

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After the Van Gogh purchase, Saito said it had cost $33 million more than he expected, but that obviously did not deter him from pursuing the Renoir. He reportedly told his representative at the auctions that no price was too high to pay.

“They are world-class, wonderful works,” he said of his new purchases.

Saito said the paintings will probably spend several years locked up in a storeroom before being put on public display--perhaps in New York’s Metropolitan Museum, or in a small museum in his home prefecture.

While Saito is casual now about spending millions in a single stroke, he resigned the presidency of the Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co. eight years ago to take personal responsibility for its sagging fortunes.

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By the late 1980s, the business had revived sufficiently to allow Saito to move into collecting circles again. But he says he owns only a few artworks, including a Chagall and an Andrew Wyeth painting.


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