Alibaba founder Jack Ma sells his own painting for $5.4 million

Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, pictured last month in New York City.

Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, pictured last month in New York City.

(Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Internet billionaire Jack Ma usually makes headlines for his business deals as the founder of Alibaba, China’s largest Web portal. On Sunday, the man who has been called the richest man in China was in the news for a nonbusiness matter: An environmentally themed painting that he co-created sold at auction for $5.4 million, far exceeding estimates.

Paradise,” by Ma and noted contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi, depicts the Earth in a swirl of oceanic blue, mixed with the wispy whites of clouds. The oil painting sold at a Sotheby’s auction of modern and contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong on Sunday for 42.2 million Hong Kong dollars, or about $5.4 million.

Sotheby’s had estimated that the painting would sell for between $194,000 to $323,000. The auction house said that all proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit the Paradise International Foundation, an environmental group that Ma and Fanzhi co-founded.


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The buyer of the painting was another Chinese billionaire, Qian Fenglei, a philanthropist and entrepreneur, the auction house said.

Ma said in a release that “Paradise” represents his first outing as a painter. “That this is the first time I’ve painted, and to have been able to do it with Fanzhi -- I am deeply honoured,” he said. “Together, we created an Earth: to protect the Earth, to protect the oceans, to protect the air, to protect water.”

The Internet entrepreneur has devoted increasing resources to environmental philanthropy. This year, he became the chair of the Nature Conservancy’s China Program.

Sunday’s auction brought in about $76.4 million, including the sale of an early abstract work by Yayoi Kusama that saw competition among five bidders and exceeded its estimates to sell for $7 million.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT