The Art Of Losing

A cautionary tale.

It was meant to be one of the world’s top collections of 20th century art, anchored by Amedeo Modigliani nudes and Claude Monet water lilies.

But two years after Dmitry Rybolovlev sued his dealer, alleging he was overcharged by as much as $1 billion, the Russian fertilizer magnate is unloading works he acquired at often record prices. He has already sold three for a loss totaling an estimated $100 million, and is offering five more at Christie’s auctions in London starting next week, some for a fraction of their purchase prices.

Rybolovlev—whose fortune totals about $9.8 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index—invested about $2 billion in 38 works, from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso. They were procured privately by Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, better known for creating a network of tax-free art storage warehouses in Singapore and Luxembourg.

Rybolovlev was among new buyers from Russia, China and other emerging economies who drove an unprecedented expansion of the art market in the past decade. Booming wealth created a network of collectors hungry for trophies by top modern and contemporary Western artists and willing to pay almost anything. Between 2003—the year Rybolovlev met Bouvier—and 2014, global sales more than tripled to $68 billion.

Since then, the market has contracted, and some of the art world’s most expensive pieces have been resold for less than their purchase price, mired in lawsuits and investigations.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

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