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Ink-wash painter known for his wealth and luck

CUI Ruzhuo, a famous ink-wash artist, predicts his works will fetch 100 million yuan (US$14.7 million) by the time he's 70, just four years to go.

"I am a person with ambition. For me, nothing is impossible. I believe that my work will break 100 million yuan when I am 70," he said as his solo exhibition opened at the Shanghai Art Museum.

The exhibition runs through September 15.

His highest price at auction to date was 14.6 million Hong Kong dollars (US$1.8 million) in 2006. So he has a way to go.

Cui is talented, rich, famous and, many people say, lucky.

He donated nearly 50 million yuan to the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008, the highest individual donation that year.

"Please don't focus too much on my donation - it's already the past," says the 66-year-old traditional ink-wash painter.

"I am not a philanthropist. I did that because at that moment I wanted to."

Cui's artistry is held in high regard, and his personal experiences show him to be a person of considerable strength, and luck.

A student of Li Kuchan, one of the masters of modern Chinese traditional ink-wash paintings, Cui left Beijing for the US in 1981.

"Like most of my peers, I suffered greatly when I landed in the US," he recalls. "Suddenly I found I had nobody to turn to, and I had run out of money in a rented basement."

But then, luck, destiny or sheer happenstance intervened.

Four months later, he sold a painting for US$400,000, almost double the annual salary of the US president at that time.

"Luckily, one collector spotted me, which totally changed my destiny," he says.

The collector introduced Cui to wealthy US collectors and artistic circles, enabling him to make his first bucket of gold.

He continued to prosper, so much so that he undertook collecting and today his collection contains a scroll painted by Shi Tao of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), said to be worth 400 million yuan.

"Seven months after my arrival in the US, I bought my house. Nine months after that, I got my green card - it almost sounds like a miracle."

In 1996, Cui returned to Beijing and built a small empire of his own.

His villa, said to be the biggest among those of China's culture circle, contains a private museum.

"I am not the kind of artist who can stand a poor life. I enjoy a simple yet rich life," Cui says. "Here, rich represents not only wealth, but also profound cultural taste."

Today, Cui's artworks have been widely collected by important figures around the world, including former American President Ronald Reagan and former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Date: through September 15, 9am-5pm

Address: Shanghai Art Museum , 325 Nanjing Rd W.


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