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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