Couple behind Shanghai’s Long Museum to sell part of their collection at Sotheby’s

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Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, the Chinese billionaire collector couple who founded the Long Museum in Shanghai, one of the country’s most prominent private art institutions, will sell a portion of their collection through Sotheby’s in Hong Kong later this year.

“Sotheby’s is honoured to be bringing to its Hong Kong sale rooms a truly outstanding group of works from the legendary collection of Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei—two of the greatest collectors of our time,” says Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s chairman, in a statement. “Though the works to be offered represent just a tiny fraction of the couple’s vast collection, the scope of the offering, which spans everything from works by the greatest names in art history to newer pieces by today’s rising stars, is fully reflective of the expansive and enlightened approach that has always underpinned Liu and Wang’s collecting journey.”

Proceeds from the forthcoming sales are “destined to further key initiatives at the Long museum” the statement adds, and will also “fund future acquisitions and the continued fostering of cultural dialogues between different artists, geographies and generations”.

Liu, an entrepreneur famed for rising from a taxi driver to one of China’s richest people, is the chair and cofounder of Guohua Life Insurance. In the first half of 2023, Guohua announced losses of between $23.3m and $28.7m, according to China’s Economic Information Newspaper.

According to Sotheby’s statement, around 50 paintings from the couple’s collection will be sold, including works by Amadeo Modigliani, Zao Wou-ki, Kazuo Shirago, Leonard Foujita, René Magritte, David Hockney, Matthew Wong, Dana Schutz, Nicolas Party and Georgette Chen and Yayoi Kusama.

Sources close to the story say that the couple will also sell around a further 50 works at Sotheby’s in New York, and that the sales will include at least one major work from the collection. Sotheby’s have not denied this claim.

Sotheby’s statement avoids commenting on the future of the Long Museum, which first opened in late 2012 in Shanghai. A second Shanghai location launched in 2014, and a Chongqing branch opened in the Guohua Financial Center in 2016. Plans for a fourth location in Wuhan appear to be tabled. China’s zero-Covid era saw the closure of another private museum, Guangzhou’s acclaimed Times Museum, in late 2021 due to the financial woes of its property company backer.

Liu and Wang have for the past decade been among the most prolific art collectors worldwide as well as avid supporters of Chinese contemporary art. A massive sell-off of Chinese artists under the current sluggish markets could dent pricing that until now has only risen exponentially.

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