Former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishivli, purchased a painting of the iconic Georgian artist, Niko Pirosmani at Christie’s Auction for £962,500 (about USD 1.486 million) and donated it to Tbilisi Museum of Arts on Monday.
“Niko Pirosmani’s ‘Arsenal Hill at Night’ was donated to the Museum of Arts by decision of Bidzina Ivanishvili and every visitor will be able to see it. Ivanishivli family purchased this canvas for million and a half USD at Christie’s Auction yesterday,” reads the statement published by 2030, a non-government organization established by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire.
According to the information published on auction website the estimated price of the painting was in a range between £800,000 and £1,200,000 ($1,235,199 – $1,852,799).
Niko Pirosmani (born Pirosmanashvili) (1862-1918) was a self-taught primitivist artist, a well-known representative of a movement described by the critics as Naïve Art. He died in poverty and the fame came to him posthumously. Since then he has been literally admired by Georgians. Pirosmani painted his ‘Arsenal Hill’ somewhere in 1907-08.
After the information about the Pirosmani painting would be sold at Christie’s was spread by the media, it caused ripples throughout the Georgian public, with voices calling to start fundraising in order to buy the painting and return it to Georgia.
The website of Christie’s, the largest arts Auction in the world, reads that owners of the painting included (Chronologically) Nikoloz Baiadze, Kiril Zdanevich (an avant-garde artist of Polish origins), from whom the Soviet Union purchased the painting (probably by advise of Lilya Brik, poet Vladimir Mayakovski’s muse and mistress) and gifted later it to Louis Aragon, well-known French poet and vocal supporter of the Communist party. Since then picture went through several anonymous owners.
Bidzina Ivanishvili owns rich collection of art works. In 2006 he purchased one of the world’s most expensive canvases – Pablo Picasso’s Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat) for $95 million.
By the most recent data the most expensive painting sold in 21st century is Paul Gauguin’s When Will You Marry – it was sold for $300 million in February, 2015, followed by Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players – $259 million. According of the media reports, both of those works were purchased by the government of Qatar.