NEW YORK—ARTnewsletter has learned that hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen paid about $120 million for two works owned by Las Vegas hotel and casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn, according to informed sources. Cohen’s purchase of the two paintings—Vincent van Gogh’s Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat, 1890, and Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian painting Bathers, 1902—took place in late August or early September, sources say. None of the parties involved in the transaction would comment on the sale.
Dealers—including some who had approached Wynn about selling the van Gogh in recent years—estimate that Cohen paid approximately $80 million for the painting and around $40 million for the Gauguin.
Cohen, 49, has amassed a significant collection of artworks during the past five years. Earlier this year he spent at least $8 million for Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991—a 14-foot tiger shark floating in formaldehyde (see ANL, 1/4/05). In 2003 he reportedly acquired a Jackson Pollock drip painting from DreamWorks cofounder David Geffen for $52 million, and last summer purchased Andy Warhol’s Superman, 1961, from New York dealer Larry Gagosian for $25 million.
Cohen, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., also owns works by such artists as Francis Bacon, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, according to sources.
Wynn had owned the van Gogh and the Gauguin for nearly a decade—his purchase of the van Gogh, for $47.5 million, was disclosed in the 1997 annual report of Mirage Resorts, the Las Vegas hotel and casino he founded. Around the same time he paid a reported $35 million for Gauguin’s Bathers.
Wynn sold his stake in Mirage Resorts to MGM in 2000 but retained ownership of a number of valuable artworks. Earlier this year he opened Wynn Las Vegas, a $2.7 billion hotel and casino, where the van Gogh and Gauguin had been on exhibit at the Wynn Art Gallery along with Rembrandt van Rijn’s Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes, 1634, Picasso’s Le rêve, 1932, and Henri Matisse’s The Persian Robe, 1940.
Acquires Vermeer for $30 Million
Since spending at least $285 million on art leading up to the 1998 opening of Mirage Resorts, Wynn has been an active player in the art market. Last year he paid $30 million for Johannes (Jan) Vermeer’s A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, circa 1670, at Sotheby’s London (see ANL, 7/20/04).
In early 2004, Wynn sold two Paul Cézanne paintings—the still life Rideau, cruchon et compotier, 1893-94, and a circa 1895 self-portrait—to Chicago collector and hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin for approximately $75 million. As one dealer observes about Wynn, “He’s a collector, but he’s not a collector who keeps things forever.”