LONDON — In a front-page feature story, the London Daily Telegraph reported Monday that Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito, owner of two of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction--Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" and Renoir's "Le Moulin de la Galette"--might take the works to the grave with him.
But on Tuesday, the London Evening Standard--citing a Japanese newspaper story--reported that Saito, 75, chairman of the Daishowa paper company and a world-class collector, had said that his reputed plans were all a jest.
Saito told the Sankei Shimbun: "This was supposed to be a joke but it was taken seriously in France. I've been telling my children to burn the paintings with my coffin when I die, as my inheritance tax will be tens of billion yen."
The Japanese press, which has been writing about how Saito has become Japan's single-largest taxpayer, reported that his comments, meant to be lighthearted, were taken seriously by foreign art experts--who missed the joke.