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Casino magnate buys $17M Cezanne
Former head for Mirage Resorts Stephen Wynn buys self-portrait at Christie's auction.
May 8, 2003: 7:08 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN) - A self-portrait of the French painter Paul Cezanne that hadn't been publicly seen in 65 years sold for more than $17 million at the Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art sale Wednesday night, going to casino owner and art collector Stephen Wynn.

The Portrait de Paul Cezanne, painted in about 1895, has not been publicly exhibited since 1937, and is the only Cezanne self-portrait still in private hands, a Christie's spokeswoman said. The sale had drawn wide attention from art collectors and was expected to sell for $15 million to $20 million.

The nearly $17.37 million figure included a fee that Wynn, who entered his bid over the telephone, had to pay to Christie's. The actual bidding price was $15.5 million.

"This is not the type of picture that appears on the market," said Christopher Eykyn, director of the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at Christie's. "This work, in fact, has never been sold before publicly and has only been sold twice before privately. So, this is a major moment in the art market and the public has responded accordingly."

The self-portrait was one of four done in the last 15 years of Cezanne's life, when he created his most important works -- works that had the greatest impact on 20th century artists and that are considered the most valuable. The work was his second-to-last self-portrait.

"He was at the height of his maturity. ... It's not just a depiction of him as an artist, it's more of a psychological portrayal of him -- his difficult and somewhat turbulent character," Eykyn said. "It's a very piercing, powerful image that clients are very much responding to."

The auction of the painting lasted approximately three minutes, with the bidding starting at $10 million.

According to a release from Christie's, Wynn personally bought the painting to be publicly displayed in the Wynn Collection in Las Vegas, next to a Cezanne still life painted at about the same time.

Wynn formerly led Mirage Resorts, which owned the Bellagio, Mirage and Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas before it was bought by MGM Grand in 2000.

The piece is described by the auction house as "an engaging portrayal that shows the artist on the threshold of his twilight, seasoned and sage-like, questioning and skeptical."

The artist lived from 1835 to 1906.  Top of page

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