Joseph Lau, who has a net worth of $13.6 billion, as of 2022, according to Forbes, has used his economic power to buy some major art and some major jewels—and allegedly buy land illegally. Lau, a Hong Kong real-estate tycoon and chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, has collected art for over 30 years, and caught the attention of market watchers in 2006 for buying an Andy Warhol “Mao” painting for $17.4 million, setting a new record for a work in that series. (Lau also famously paid $39.2 million for Paul Gauguin’s 1892 Te Poipoi painting in 2007.) He also owns pieces by David Hockney, and Forbes has estimated the total value of his art collection at around a cool $1 billion.
In March 2014, Lau was found guilty of bribery and money laundering in a real-estate scandal. He was sentenced to five years in jail, but because the trial happened in Macau and Lau hails from Hong Kong, he will remain free, unless he sets foot in the autonomous region. (Joseph’s brother Thomas is also included on the ARTnews Top 200.) His sentence has not slowed Lau’s habit of aggressive spending: In November 2015 he dropped $28.5 million, for a pink stone at Christie’s in Geneva. The following night he purchased the 12-carat “Blue Moon” diamond at Sotheby’s, for another eye-popping figure: $49 million. In 2017, citing serious health issues, Lau announced that he is transferring a majority of his wealth to his new wife and son. He has periodically sold off small parts of his holdings as well. In 2022, he sold eight porcelain objects from his collection at a sale in Hong Kong; ahead of the auction, Sotheby’s said it expected to bring in $19 million. That same year, at Christie’s, he sold wines from his collection that netted more than $8 million in sales.