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When $250,000 isn’t a quarter of a million dollars. Seems there is a famous, or infamous depending on your position relative to the action, art sale that wasn’t what it seemed to be.

Sound Familiar?

It began as a reported private art sale that was at first denied, and then it became a record-breaking sale that never was. Stories are told and exaggerated, but this one wouldn’t go away.

Paul Gauguin Nafea Faa Ipoipo 1892 oil on canvas 101 x 77 cm 1Paul Gauguin Nafea Faa Ipoipo 1892 oil on canvas 101 x 77 cm

The $300m sale of Paul Gauguin’s 1892 Nafea faa ipoipo (When will you marry?) that was reportedly acquired from Rudolf Staechlin’s family foundation in 2014, was thought to be the number one price paid for a work of art in the 2014-2015 period. The $300m number was remarkable for the art market even in an expanding market and was heralded for indicating the strength and validity of the market at that time.

In reality the actual price was $75,000 to the square inch less than reported at that time. Recent revelations indicate that the actual price for Gauguin’s painting was a paltry $210m, at 40 x 30 inches = 1200 sq. inches, 210m divided by 1200 = $175,000 to the sq. inch, making one horizontal inch across the bottom of the canvas worth $5,250,000.

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For comparison: That’s 12 Mercedes-Benz Smart cars to the square inch, making the painting worth 14,334 Smart cars. One horizontal inch is 358 Smart cars.

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About the Author

Lawrence Klepper

Lawrence Klepper

As an artist, Gallery Management Instructor, Gallery Director, Independent Curator, and Special Exhibitions Coordinator for City art museums, college art galleries, and commercial galleries in Califor...