Did Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When will you Marry, 1892) really sell for $300m to Qatar? The sale was reported last February, but there was some scepticism. Until then, the most expensive Gauguin sold publicly at auction had been Te Poipoi (The Morning, 1892), which went for $39.2m at Sotheby’s in 2007.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo will be going on loan in early July to the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, in an exhibition of the Staechelin collection (it will be a late addition to Collecting and Modernism, until 14 September). The Reina Sofia now appears to confirm the sale, stating in its press release: “Nafea Faa Ipoipo was recently purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority from the Swiss collection of Rudolf Staechelin for more than $300m.”
A press spokesman said that its release had been “checked with everyone”, presumably including the lender (who is providing 62 works) and the museum’s own curator. He suggested that The Art Newspaper confirm the details with Ruedi Staechelin, the grandson of Rudolf, who had bought the Gauguin in 1917. Ruedi responded that the painting’s owner is the Rudolf Staechelin Family Trust and he “could not confirm any buyer or the price”. The Reina Sofia’s press office then clarified that its release had been based on media reports and then “confirmed with our own sources”.
On Rudolf’s death in 1946, Nafea Faa Ipoipo went on long-term loan to the Kunstmuseum in Basel. It is currently on loan to the Beyeler Foundation, just outside Basel, for its Gauguin retrospective (until 28 June). After the Madrid loan, it will travel with other Staechelin paintings to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC (10 October-10 January 2016). A Phillips Collection spokeswoman said that next January the Gauguin would then go on to its new owner.
Assuming the $300m figure is correct, the Gauguin painting is the world’s most expensive work of art. In 2011, there were unconfirmed reports that the Qatar Museums Authority had paid $250m for Cézanne’s The Card Players (around 1893). The highest auction price for a work of art is for Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O (1955), which sold for $179m at Christie’s in New York on 12 May.