China film mogul Wang Zhongjun says S$82m van Gogh buy cheaper than expected

Wang Zhongjun, chairman of the high-powered Huayi Brothers film studio, stands next to his Vincent van Gogh 1890 still life painting Still Life, Vase With Daisies And Poppies, at Sotheby's Hong Kong Gallery in Hong Kong on Dec 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Wang Zhongjun, chairman of the high-powered Huayi Brothers film studio, stands next to his Vincent van Gogh 1890 still life painting Still Life, Vase With Daisies And Poppies, at Sotheby's Hong Kong Gallery in Hong Kong on Dec 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Chinese film mogul who purchased a Vincent van Gogh still life for a record US$62 million (S$82 million), on Saturday admitted he would have paid even more for the masterpiece.

Wang Zhongjun, chairman of the high-powered Huayi Brothers film studio, bought van Gogh's 1890 painting Still Life, Vase With Daisies And Poppies for US$61.8 million at Sotheby's in New York in November.

Speaking at a presentation at the auction house's Hong Kong gallery Wang said the price - a record for a still life painting by the artist - was "a bit lower" than he had been expecting to pay.

"I like it, it's not a matter of price, it's like I didn't spend money, it hangs on the wall and it belongs to me," Wang said.

"Van Gogh is my favourite artist in terms of his use of colours and many other aspects," he added.

The painting had been valued at US$30 million to US$50 million before the sale.

Wang, who will be hanging the piece at his Hong Kong home, is the latest wealthy Chinese businessman to make an eyebrow-raising art purchase.

Forbes Magazine put Wang's net worth at nearly US$1 billion, the 268th richest person in China.

Huayi Brothers Media is one of the largest private entertainment groups in China and has produced and distributed some of the country's popular movies and television productions, according to its website.

Last year, tycoon Wang Jianlin's Wanda Group bought the 1950 Pablo Picasso painting Claude And Paloma for US$28 million, more than double the high estimate of US$12 million.

At the time, the company came under fire for the extravagant purchase, with some Chinese Internet users questioning Wang's patriotism and the painting's value.

Wang Zhongjun came under similar criticism in November.

Chinese collectors have sent prices for their own country's heritage spiralling on the back of its economic boom, and are now turning their attention to Western items too.

The last great wave of Asian buying came as Japan reached the height of its economic power in the 1980s, culminating in 1990 when Japanese paper tycoon Ryoei Saito bought van Gogh's Portrait Of Dr Gachet for US$82.5 million and Renoir's Bal Du Moulin De La Galette for US$78.1 million.

He triggered outrage across the art world later when he said he would have the canvases put in his coffin and cremated with him when he died.