Ken Griffin

I decided this winter that I should take painting lessons. Painting has long been an interest, and I thought it might be time to see if I had any talent. How difficult could it be? As of this writing I am halfway through the lessons, and progress, albeit slow, is being made.

And no, that is not one of my paintings. But it hits to the point; how difficult can it be?

The painting pictured above, is named 17A, and it was painted by Jackson Pollock, the American “drip” artist. 17A sold in 2016 for $200 million.

The painting pictured below is not mine either. This painting, called “Interchange,” was completed in 1955 by the Dutch-American artist, Willem de Kooning. It sold for $20.68 million in 1989, and again in 2015 for $300 million.

One more to show you (and again, not mine). “False Start” was painted in 1959 by the American Jasper Johns. It sold at auction in 1988 for $17 million; and subsequently sold for $80 million in 2006.

It was described as “an explosion of colours, bright and frenetic, among which we can see stencilled labels such as ‘wrong,’ ‘gray,’ ‘orange,’ ‘red.’ The artwork is entirely dedicated to colour in this case – there is no subject, just different components that aimed to break the artist’s habits the he saw as certain limitations.” Whatever. Mr. Johns has (he will be 89 this year) a reputation for less vibrant, moodier productions.

The three paintings were purchased by a gentleman named Kenneth C. Griffin. Mr. Griffin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the American hedge fund, Citadel. Citadel has something like $28 billion under management, and in 2018 Citadel paid Mr. Griffin $865 million. His net worth is estimated to be $9.9 billion.

Mr. Griffin is not shy about spending his fortune. Apart from the $580 million he dropped on these three works of art, he is heavily into real estate. In 2018, he purchased four floors of a condominium building in Chicago (Citadel’s home base) for $58 million. The four floors were described as “raw” and will need about $25 million worth of build out. Mr. Griffin already owned three residences in Chicago for which he paid $47 million.

What next? Why not buy the most expensive piece of real estate for sale in the United States? Mr. Griffin paid $238 million for a 23,000 square foot condominium in the New York City high rise known as 220 Central Park South. And again, the price is just for the “raw’ space or a “white box” as they say in NYC. It will take at least another $25 million to make the place liveable. Mr. Griffin owns the 50th to 53rd floors. 220 Central Park South is pictured below – the tall building on the Park. One newspaper article described the residence as a “place for him to stay” while on business in New York. I know for a fact there are actually some really nice hotels in NYC.

Oh yes, Mr. Griffin bought another pied-à-terre in early 2019, dropping $122 million for a townhouse in London. Then there is a Miami Beach property for which he paid $60 million. His neighbour in Miami is Kim Kardashian – how lucky is that! And he has homes in Aspen, CO and Hawaii.

To be fair, Mr. Griffin is not generous only to himself. He has donated $150 million to his alma mater, Harvard, and dispensed at least $500 million to charitable causes. I wonder how he would feel about making a donation to the Qualicum Beach Aspiring Artists Society (QBAAS)?

In 2015, Mr. Griffin split from his wife of 11 years, and perhaps this prompted his real estate buying spree. After an acrimonious negotiation, they reached a divorce settlement. As far as I know, the ex-Mrs. Griffin (pictured with Mr. Griffin in happier times below) is on the market and would not be a bad catch.

Of note: The painting pictured below, “Flag 1983,” is another Jasper Johns creation. It sold at auction in 2014 for just over $36 million. Its dimensions are about 12 inches by 18 inches. If my calculations are right, the painting cost someone approximately $167,000 per square inch. Yes, I know. It’s stupid. But I am beginning to believe my new found interest in painting has potential.

And one final comment: It may seem to some that this blog entry is about money. It isn’t. It’s about the absence of sanity.