Chinese art auction raises concerns about the fate of missing entrepreneurs

A state-owned auction house sold a famous painting originally owned by a missing Chinese businesswoman for 38 million yuan (US$6 million) in Beijing, raising questions about whether his assets were forcibly liquidated.

Duan Weihong, an entrepreneur who is close to the family of former prime minister Wen Jiabao, initially spent US$5 million to purchase the 2012 oil painting “Prayers” by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi. husband.

exist Red roulette, Desmond Shum described Duan as “one of Zeng’s patrons”, competing with rival collectors Francois Pinault, The billionaire French luxury tycoon, with his art. According to Shum, Duan initially planned to place this painting and other works of Zeng in a luxury hotel development project in Beijing.

“She bought more than Zeng Fanzhi’s works,” said a person close to the artist. “She is also one of his biggest supporters.”

The artwork was sold to a man by the Beijing Poly International Auction Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Poly Group, on Thursday night at a price much higher than the auctioneer’s original estimate of RMB 8 to 16 million (US$1.3 million to US$2.5 million). Unidentified buyer. Poly described the seller as an “important institution” but declined to comment further on the origin of the painting.

Shum, who lives in the UK, said that he was “very sorry” when he learned that “Prayer” was going to be sold. “This is a great painting,” he added.

Duan disappeared in 2017, ostensibly to investigate Sun Zhengcai, another senior politician she trained. Sun Yat-sen was once the youngest member of the 25 Politburo members of the Communist Party of China. Before he took office, he had been regarded as a potential successor to President Xi Jinping. Arrested in 2017A year later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on suspicion of corruption.

The government or party investigators have never confirmed that Duan was detained.she Resurfaced briefly In September, she called Shum and urged him not to publish books about their dealings with Wen, Sun and other party elites.

Shum said at the time that he believed Duan was forced to make a call under duress and was not free.

Duan could not be reached to comment on the sale of this painting, which was first reported by the Art Newspaper. Zeng did not respond to a request for comment.

In the past ten years, the demand for Zeng Fanzhi’s works has cooled.However, on Monday, the Beijing artist was named the global The tenth hottest artist, Based on the total sales of his works in 2020 is 39.3 million U.S. dollars.

On Wednesday, another work by Zeng Mou, “This beautiful land No 2“, sold at a price of 40 million Hong Kong dollars (5.1 million US dollars), much higher than its initial estimate of 10 to 20 million Hong Kong dollars.

It is not uncommon for famous Chinese entrepreneurs to encounter legal dangers and later their assets are basically intact. But for low-key individuals who have close business ties with elite party families, the risk is greater.

The financier Xiao Jianhua never showed up again Chinese police kidnapped him In 2017, he worked in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong, and it inspired him to cross the border with mainland China.His detention has never been confirmed by the government or political party, and his financial empire is tear down Last year the regulator.

Additional reporting by Emma Zhou in Beijing

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