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Elaine Wynn on $142.5 M. Bacon Triptych: ‘I Was Afraid I Wasn’t Going to Own It’



In the New York Times, Jori Finkel spoke to Elaine Wynn, the billionaire collector, philanthropist, former wife of casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn, and current co-chairperson of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wynn spoke publicly for the first time about her purchase of a Francis Bacon triptych of the painter Lucian Freud, which she bought for $142.5 million at a Christie’s auction in the fall of 2013.

Of seeing the work for the first time, Wynn told Finkel, “I was gobsmacked. I was afraid I wasn’t going to own it—I’ve never had a reaction like that before.” She discussed her secrecy about the purchase, as well. Wynn was not identified as the buyer until some months after the auction, and declined to comment even then; there was speculation at the time that the buyer had been her ex-husband. “For me it was something to celebrate quietly with myself rather than have it splashed about in the news,” she says in the interview. For splashing it about several years after the fact, we apologize.

Finkel also grilled Wynn on a certain tax loophole that the Times reported on in 2014, when Wynn loaned the triptych to the Portland Art Museum, a maneuver presumably meant to allow Wynn not to pay New York tax on the work, by exhibiting it first in the tax-friendly state of Oregon. Wynn did not say whether or not she paid a tax on the Bacon painting, which Finkel points out would have cost around $11 million. She said instead, “I think it’s a nitpicky thing to dwell on…The tax doesn’t even begin to compare to the value of the painting I’m going to give away.”

Wynn was open about her intentions to donate the painting when she goes “to the craps game in the sky.” LACMA, she said, will be “prominently considered.”

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