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Billionaire Qatari sheikh 'identified' as secret buyer of world record Picasso

Profile:Billionaire Qatari sheikh 'identified' as secret buyer of world record Picasso

Billionaire Qatari sheikh 'identified' as secret buyer of world record Picasso

A billionaire Qatari sheikh dubbed "the man who bought London" was reportedly the anonymous bidder who snapped up a Pablo Picasso masterpiece that smashed the world auction sale record.


There has been intense speculation about the identity of the buyer who placed the winning $179.4 million (£116 million) telephone bid for Les Femmes d'Alger at Christie's in Manhattan earlier this month.


Art world sources have now told the New York Postthat the painting was acquired by Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former Qatari prime minister.


Qatar's ruling Al Thani clan has been pursuing an international artwork buying spree as it aims to turn the small energy-rich emirate into a global cultural power ahead of the 2022 World Cup.


But Les Femmes d'Alger may never be displayed publicly in Qatar to avoid offending Islamic sensibilities because it depicts women's breasts, even though they were painted in the artist's highly stylised cubist form.


It could instead remain at one of the sheikh's multi-million pound homes in London or New York, the newspaper reported.


The Anglophile royal earned the nickname of the "man who bought London" after going on a buying spree in the city with his personal fortune and as head of the Qatar Investment Authority.


The state agency invested in Harrod's, the London Shard, Sainsbury's, Barclays and the Stock Exchange, while the Anglophile royal bought three apartments in the One Hyde Park development.


He is also currently renovating a mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side that he bought for $47 million in 2012.


Members of the royal family have used their oil and gas wealth to buy several masterpieces in recent years. Some were bought for private collections while others were acquired for a new national museum that will show off its art treasures when it opens next year.


Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, the sister of Qatar's emir, was initially reported to have been the buyerof the artwork that was previously the most expensive sold at auction a Francis Bacon triptychthat went under the hammer for $142 million in 2013.


But art world sources later said that the buyer who has not been officially identified was Elaine Wynn, the co-founder of a Las Vegas casino empire.


Sheikha Mayassa, then head of the Qatar Museums Authority, previously bought "The Card Players" by Paul Cezanne last year for a reported $250 million in a private sale the highest-price paid for a painting at the time. Her family has also spent heavily on works by Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.


There was also speculation that the buyer of the Picasso this month might have been Asian as money from that continent, notably China, fuelled a record-breaking week of sales of nearly $2 billionat Christie's and Sotheby's in New York.


The Qatar embassy did not reply to a request for comment and the government rarely discusses the purchases of its ruling royals.


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