On Tuesday, a man and a woman sitting in the back of the sales room at Sotheby’s bid ferociously on a painting by Claude Monet, Meules (1890). They went back and forth with the client on the phone with Sotheby’s specialist Brooke Lampley until the price hit $97 million, at which point Lampley stopped bidding, and the work was won by the seated team, with the man on a cell phone (presumably with the client) while the woman worked the paddle. With fees, the price was $110.7 million, a record for Monet—and the first Impressionist painting to crack the $100-million mark.
Sources Artsy contacted Tuesday night said the bidders were art advisors from Germany, but it was unclear on whose behalf they were bidding. The mystery may have been solved Wednesday, when the art industry newsletter The Canvas announced it had identified the buyer as Hasso Plattner, a German software tycoon who founded SAP in 1972 and is now worth $15.5 billion, according to Forbes. It also suggested (though it could not confirm) that the work, one of Monet’s rare and coveted depictions of haystacks, may be shown at the Museum Barberini—the private museum Plattner opened in 2017 in Potsdam, Germany—in February 2020 as part of a show called “Monet: Places.”
The Canvas ensured readers that they had such highly guarded information on authority, but admitted that they were still short on details regarding the nature of the transaction. As the email stated:
Works that sell in the nine-figure range are typically shrouded in mystery and enmeshed in a veil of opacity. While The Canvas is confident that Plattner himself was the ultimate buyer, we're uncertain as to whether he purchased the work personally, used the vehicle of his family office, or even bought the work directly through the museum (although we'd be highly surprised by the latter option). This is a developing story and there might still be a few twists and turns left before the news is ultimately revealed to the public.
Plattner, the Museum Barberini, and Sotheby’s have not yet commented.
Correction: An earlier version of this article presented the inclusion of Meules in a forthcoming Museum Barberini exhibition as a certainty, but such plans are unconfirmed. The article has been updated to reflect this.