A Chinese taxi driver-turned-billionaire just bought a $170 Million painting

chineseartNext Shark:

A former Chinese cab driver who hustled his way to becoming a billionaire just set the world record for the second highest price ever paid for a work of art an auction with the purchase of a $170.4 million painting.

The painting, Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu Couché”, or “Reclining Nude”, was sold on Monday at Christie’s in Manhattan to Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian who bid for the painting over the phone. “Reclining Nude” is now the second highest price ever paid for a work of art at an auction behind Pablo Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)”, which sold for $179.5 million at Christie’s last May.

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Yiqian, 52, was a middle school dropout who struggled to survive during China’s Cultural Revolution by selling handbags on the street before becoming a cab driver. In the 1980s and 1990s, he made a fortune off investing in stocks for real estate and pharmaceuticals. Now worth $1.4 billion, Yiqian is an art collector and the owner, along with his wife, of two art museums in Shanghai where they are known to be flashy art collectors.

Yiqian plans to bring the pricey painting to display in one of his museums so that Chinese people don’t have to travel across the world just to see it.

The eccentric art collector made headlines last year when bought the famous Ming DynastyChicken Cup,” a finely crafted teacup with a rooster drawn on it, for $36.3 million. Yiqian paid for the cup by using his black American Express Centurion card and swiping it 24 times. Yiqian later posted a picture of himself sipping tea from the antique cup.

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Design: Beijing Tea House by Kengo Kuma Associates

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Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei sends empty chair to Stockholm Film Fest in protest

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Hollywood Reporter:

In place of himself, the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has sent an empty chair to the Stockholm Film Festival, a defiant artistic gesture symbolizing his inability to attend the event because of the intervention of Chinese authorities. Ai has been prevented from leaving China since he was released from prison in 2011, over charges of tax evasion, amid a political crackdown on outspoken artists and government critics.

His attendance was never expected, but a provocative response to his predicament was all but assured.

The Stockholm Film Festival, each year reserves one seat on its jury for a figure from a field of the arts other than film. Ai was invited for the 2013 edition, in light of the festival’s spotlight theme “freedom,” which explores the fact that “many filmmakers, artists and journalists still during the 2000s are not able to perform their work without the influence of censorship.”

The artist sent the specially designed chair to Sweden last week from his studio in Beijing. Designed by Ai himself in the classic Chinese style of the Ming Dynasty, it has one conspicuous intervention: a wooden bar across the front, making it impossible to sit in. It will be displayed in public view at the Skandia cinema, one of the main screening venues, for the duration of the 12-day festival.

Appearing in a pre-recorded video message played Tuesday at a news conference, Ai said: “I feel sorry I can’t come. That’s why I have designed and sent something symbolic.”

I hope it can give some kind of statement on the way authorities can limit freedom of speech, can limit basic human rights for artists to travel or participate in cultural activities — very ruthlessly and with no explanation,” he added. “I’m still living under a kind of soft detention. My passport is still in the authorities’ hands.”

In the internet age especially documentary films have made a great appearance in talking about issues, discussing truths, and also revealing secrets about those in power… especially when the power is not elected by the people,” Ai said in his statement.

The Stockholm Film Festival runs Nov. 6-17, with over 180 films from more than 50 countries in competition.

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Ai Weiwei sends empty chair to Stockholm Film Fest in protest