Russian Billionaire Loses $150 Million on Sale of Four Artworks

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev sold a painting by Mark Rothko for 10.7 million pounds ($13.1 million) on Tuesday, the final artwork in a batch of five he consigned to Christie’s that lost about $150 million.

Rothko’s “No. 1,” painted in 1949, sold at auction in London within the estimated range of $10 million to $15 million, and below the 24 million euros ($36 million) that Rybolovlev paid for it in 2008. Last week, Rybolovlev sold three paintings at Christie’s, each at a loss. A sculpture by Auguste Rodin failed to sell.
Rybolovlev’s decision to offload so many artworks by top 20th-century artists has left many experts scratching their heads. He acquired them over the course of a decade with the help of Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier and already lost an estimated $100 million selling three works by Paul Gauguin, Gustav Klimt and Rodin in the past 18 months.

Read more here about a $100 Million Mystery: A Russian, His Art, and His Big Losses

Rybolovlev, who made his fortune from the sale of two fertilizer companies in Russia, has paid record prices for art. Two years ago, he sued Bouvier, alleging he was overcharged by as much as $1 billion, Bloomberg has reported.

“As Singapore’s highest court noted, the buyers in this case ‘obtained the masterpieces which were precisely what they wanted, and these were all transacted at prices they agreed to pay,”’ Ron Soffer, Bouvier’s lawyer, said in an interview last month, citing a ruling in a related civil case.

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