Liu Yiqian learned about art the way only a billionaire could. “Whenever I saw others bidding,” Liu told Bloomberg, “I just competed, and after I made the buy I would ask them, ‘Why is this piece good?’” Since those early beginnings he has amassed more than 2,300 works, filling his two museums in Shanghai with ancient scrolls, Tibetan silk embroideries, and imperial porcelains, along with contemporary pieces by Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama. In November of 2015 Liu paid $170.4 million to add Modigliani’s 1917–18 canvas Nu Couché to his collection, which is curated by his wife, Wang Wei. It isn’t just extravagant spending and bulldog bidding that attracts attention to the self-made former taxi driver, however. “Most other collectors are quite dull,” a London-based art dealer told Bloomberg. “He’s a cheeky chappy, it’s refreshing.”

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Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian


Source of wealth:

Collecting area:
Chinese art, scrolls, and porcelain; contemporary international art, including Chinese, Asian, European, and American

Top 200 appearance:
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Fun fact:

One of the antics that marked Liu as a “cheeky chappy” was his acquisition of the so-called chicken cup—a 500-year-old piece of Ming-dynasty porcelain—that he purchased in 2014 for $36.3 million. He paid for it by swiping his American Express card 24 times—collecting, at the same time, the chicken cup and 422 million American Express Points. He later caused an uproar by posting a picture of himself drinking from the cup.