See You In Hell, Vinnie: The Ryoei Saito Interview
By Ron Diller, Staff Intern
In 1990 Japanese multimillionaire Ryoei Saito shocked the art world by dropping an outstanding $82.5 million on a van Gogh painting, Portrait du Dr. Gachet. Several days later he dropped another $78.1 million on a painting by Renoir, Au Moulin de la Galette. When the three day spending spree ended, $160.6 million had been splurged and Saito had broken the record for the most money paid at auction for art. A record so impressive it still stands today. But Saito was just getting started. In 1991 he shocked the art world again when he commented that he would like to have the paintings cremated with his body when he died. Art lovers were stunned and protests abounded. Saito later retracted the comment, saying it was a joke, which proved to be somewhat true since Au Moulin de la Galette was sold in 1996 to perfume heir Ronald Lauder for $50 million. Still no one is quite sure what happened to the Portrait du Dr. Gachet. To solve this mystery, ARTless decided to contact Ryoei Saito, who died in 1996, to see if he would discuss the purchase, the van Gogh and what exactly did happen to it.
ARTless: Mr. Saito, it is an honor to talk to you.
Ryoei Saito: Thank you.
ARTless: Can we ask? How are things in the afterlife? Are you still as rich as you were when you were alive?
RS: Not as rich as I was living, but whoever said, "You can't take it with you" was obviously still alive.
ARTless: I see. So tell us, how did it feel to spend $160.6 million on art? Was it a feeling of pleasure?
RS: It felt good. Not as good as rolling around in a pool of yen while teen-age whores fellate you, but it was close.
ARTless: Close to teen-age whores giving fellatio?
ARTless: Interesting. So what did you do with the paintings once you bought them? Rumor has it you were going to hang them at a resort you were designing at the time, but that never happened did it?
RS: No. I was going to do that, but it was so much more fun to just roll around naked with the paintings and the yen having teen-age whores fellate me. I never got around to it.
ARTless: You never got around to building the car racing resort?
RS: I guess. I mean, with the nakedness and the whores and all that rolling around I didn't do much of anything.
ARTless: OK, so we know that the Renoir piece was sold after your death in 1996, but no one is quite sure where the van Gogh portrait went.
RS: That's correct.
ARTless: Well, we have to ask. Did you have it cremated or did you sell it to an anonymous buyer?
RS: Actually, I did both. I had it cremated and then I sold the ashes to a wealthy American for $100 million.
ARTless: What did he do with it?
RS: He has a collection of expensive things he buys and cremates, like he cremated a sheet of inverted Jennys. He cremated the Hope Diamond.
ARTless: Can you cremate a diamond?
RS: I'm not sure.
ARTless: Well don't you feel some remorse that the art world will never get to see the Portrait of Dr. Gachet again?
RS: Well, it had gotten kind of skanky. With the fellating and the whores and whatnot. I don't think people would have been too happy with me anyway.
RS: Yeah, you know, like it just got all skanked up.
ARTless: Right. So you didn't go to heaven when you died did you.