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Wealthy spending spree

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Posted: 3 pm ET
Nude, green leaves and bust, by Pablo Picasso

"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," by Pablo Picasso

The numbers just keep going up. Seems every time we look, there's a new spending record being set by the wealthy. This week, Pablo Picasso's 1932 portrait of his mistress, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," fetched $106.5 million at a Christie's auction in New York. It was -- needless to say -- the highest amount ever paid for a work of art at auction.

Only three months ago, a buyer spent $104.3 million for an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, "Walking Man I." Picasso's art came near that price in 2004, when he set a pre-recession record of $104.1 million for "Boy with a Pipe."

Among the more mobile collector's items, the 1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, a sleekly-styled automobile, sold last week to the Mullin Automotive Museum in California for between $30 million and $40 million, becoming the new "most expensive auto." The Bugatti was part of the estate of collector Dr. Peter D. Williamson, and a person close to the sale provided the price range, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Considering that the stock market has recovered much faster since the recession than the housing market, it stands to reason that the wealthy have gotten wealthier at a quicker pace. And now they appear to be ready to tamp down shameful spending and show off again. As one dealer at the Christie's auction put it: "The market also wants trophies right now."

As far as trophies go, real estate can't be far behind in the spending spree, what with the rock-bottom prices on estates and low mortgage rates. Anyone up for "the most expensive home?" That title would go to socialite Candy Spelling's mansion in Beverly Hills, currently on the market for $150 million. Surely that won't languish for long.

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