The Mystery Of Whitney Duan And The Resale Of Her Priceless Paintings
Art3 Minutes Read

The Mystery Of Whitney Duan And The Resale Of Her Priceless Paintings

December 4, 2021 Share

Whitney Duan, a real-estate billionaire, disappeared in 2017. Now, a famous painting she owned has strangely appeared on sale in Beijing.

On September 5, 2017, Weihong Whitney Duan disappeared without a trace from the streets of Beijing. She has never been seen again.

According to her husband, Desmund Shum, a businessman and author, Whitney Duan was last seen on September 5, 2017, at her office in Genesis, Beijing. This glass-and-steel building, worth $2.5 billion, was one of the jewels in the property empire run by Duan and Shum during their 10-year marriage.

Their ambition and networking skills led the couple to make property deals with some of China’s most influential people, sealed over opulent seafood lunches costing up to $1,000 ahead. 

It has been four years since she was taken.

Whitney Duan
Whitney Duan, before she disappeared in 2017. Photo By The Art Newspaper

“First of all, we don’t know if she’s alive or dead. The toughest part is that if she ever comes out alive, what state will she be in?” – Desmund Shum 

Her husband believed that the government silenced her as she may have been involved with or overheard several political discussions that she wasn’t supposed to. 

Duan was not only an influential figure within the business world, but she was a power player. Most of her friends were in high places. 

Whitney Duan
Whitney Duan and her husband, Desmund Shum. Photo by I newspaper

In 2017, Sun was convicted of bribery, and it was about the same time when Whitney, then aged 50, disappeared.

But the sudden appearance of one of her more famous art purchases at a Beijing auction house has revived interest in her fate. 

She also had a high-profile collection of Beijing-based contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi.

Whitney Duan
President Xi Jinping. Image by AP

Five paintings by artist Zeng Fanzhi were spotted in Poly Auctions in China on 2 December 2021. One of these was said to have belonged to Whitney Duan, known as Zeng Fanzhi’s Prayer (2012).

One of the most celebrated artists working today, Zeng’s work is highly sought after on the auction market. 

In October 2013, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold Zeng’s The Last Supper for $23.3 million, a record for contemporary Asian art.

Whitney Duan
Courtesy of Zeng Fanzhi

According to The Art Newspaper, “it is not known if the others also belonged to her, but she was a patron of the artist and had planned to build a studio for him as well as an art museum in one of her developments.”

The Wise (2012), which forms a part of the Prayer, sold for $4 million at auction.

Zeng Fanzhi’s Prayer (2012)

According to News, “she attempted to incriminate him in some mysterious ‘crime’, which she was unable to name, before claiming the book ‘may cost a life’.” 

Whitney Duan has still not been seen or heard of since. Duan is just one of a string of wealthy, famous individuals to have disappeared, been banished or punished under Xi Jinping’s reign.

SEE MORE: Domingo Zapata’s Party Opens Art Basel Miami 2021 With A Celebration

Similar Stories
Which Head Of State Has The Best Private Jet?
A Private View Of ‘Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’
Europe’s Most Anticipated Art Auctions of Summer 2022
Author: Michelle Laver
Desmund Shum
Poly Auctions
Sun Zhengcai
Whitney Duan
Xi Jinping