Hollywood’s power base has been shifting to China, and now its art is headed there, too: Wang Zhongjun, a Chinese movie tycoon, was the mystery buyer at Sotheby’s on Tuesday of a Picasso portrait owned for nearly seven decades by one of Hollywood’s royal families.
Mr. Wang, a co-founder of the film company Huayi Brothers, paid $29.9 million for Picasso’s “Femme au Chignon Dans un Fauteuil,” which carried a presale estimate of $18 million. It was auctioned in New York by Sotheby’s on behalf of the Goldwyn family, which has long been involved in the entertainment business in Los Angeles. Samuel Goldwyn, best known as the G in M.G.M., bought the Picasso in 1956.
The Goldwyn heirs decided to sell the family’s art collection (and Hollywood Hills mansion) after Samuel Goldwyn Jr., an art film producer, died in January.
Sotheby’s revealed that Mr. Wang was the winning bidder on Wednesday. One of China’s richest men, Mr. Wang has recently emerged as a deep-pocketed buyer of Impressionist and modern art; he paid an eye-popping $61.8 million for a Van Gogh still life at Sotheby’s in November. It now hangs in his home in Hong Kong.
“I first fell in love with the painting and then I fell in love with its story,” Mr. Wang said in a statement. “The Goldwyn family is legendary in our industry.”
Over the last year, Huayi Brothers has become a force in Western movie financing, investing in studio films like Sony’s “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt, and finalizing an 18-movie cofinancing and distribution agreement with STX Entertainment, an upstart movie operation.
Another painting from the Goldwyn collection, Henri Matisse’s “Anémones et Grenades,” estimated to bring as much as $7 million, sold for $6.1 million on Tuesday. Sotheby’s declined to say who bought it.