Liu Yiqian, one of China’s biggest art collectors, made waves last week when an image of him drinking tea from an antique porcelain cup that he bought at Sotheby’s for $36.3 million (paying for the item with his American Express card, which netted him 422 million points, according to Bloomberg) surfaced online. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports, Liu defended himself from those who called him tasteless for drinking from the the Chenghua-era (ca. 1465-1487) cup.
“Emperor Qianlong has used it, now I’ve used it,” Liu told China Real Time, The Journal reports, then added that the cup “isn’t a commercial product appropriate for the masses.”
One of China’s 152 billionaires, Liu previously has referred to himself as a “tuhao—the Putonghua term for nouveau riche with barely the culture to match the wealth,” according to the South China Morning Post. In the past he has drawn controversy for his $8.2 million acquisition of a calligraphy piece attributed to Song Dynasty poet Su Shi, who lived from 1037 to 1101, purchased at Sotheby’s New York in September 2013. Three Chinese specialists soon came forward after that purchase to call the piece fake, though Sotheby’s maintains that it is real.
Liu and his wife Wang Wei are the proprietors of the Long Museum, which opened in Shanghai’s Pudong district in 2012. A new 30,000-square-foot branch of the museum recently opened in the city’s West Bund district.