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Mar 26 2013 | 12:49pm ET
Neither an errant elbow nor a $616 million settlement bill could keep SAC Capital Advisors' Steven Cohen from a painting he's coveted for years.
Cohen, whose art collection is nearly as renowned as his hedge fund's returns, has agreed to buy Pablo Picasso's "Le Rêve" for $155 million, the most ever paid by a U.S. collector for a painting.
"Steve bought as a gift to himself," a source told the New York Post. "This was supposed to be a top-secret sale because of the government investigation and settlement."
Cohen had previously agreed, in 2006, to buy the 1932 painting from casino magnate Steve Wynn for $139 million, which would have set the all-time record for a painting (the global record is now held by Paul Cézanne's "The Card Players," acquired by the Qatari royal family in 2011 for more than $259 million). But shortly after the deal was struck, Wynn, who suffers from an eye disease, put a silver-dollar-sized hole in the painting with his elbow while showing it off in his Las Vegas office. Following restoration, the painting appraised for only $85 million, $44 million less than Cohen had agreed to pay for it.
In spite of that drama, it appears that Cohen could not resist the famed canvas, which shows Picasso's mistress masturbating.
"Steve has wanted that painting for a long time," another source told the Post. "The timing of the sale is just a coincidence."
With the purchase, Cohen will own both the most expensive painting in the U.S. in terms of purchase price—"Le Rêve"—as well as the second-most expensive in terms of inflation-adjusted price, Willem de Kooning's "Woman III," which Cohen bought for $137.5 million in 2006, which adjusts to $157.9 million. It's also not the first time Cohen and Wynn have done an art deal. In 2005, Cohen purchased paintings by Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh from Wynn for a combined $110 million.
Cohen's other pricey art buys include a Jasper Johns "Flag" he paid $110 million for in 2010, an Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe, which Cohen paid $80 million for in 2007, and a de Kooning he paid $63.5 million for in 2006.