Record-breaking Da Vinci painting will provide jewel in crown of Louvre Abu Dhabi

The most expensive painting to ever sell at auction will find a new home in Abu Dhabi, it has been revealed.

Last Wednesday (6 December 2017), the Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi”. The identity of the buyer who purchased the painting for US$450 million (£335 million), four times its estimated sale price, at Christie’s in November this year had until now remained a mystery.

Following the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s tweet, the New York Times named the buyer as Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud on the basis of documents allegedly provided from inside Saudi Arabia.

During a bidding war that lasted 19 minutes, the Saudi Prince was said to be represented by Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art in the Americas, Alex Rotter. The Prince fought off competition from Blackstone Group LP’s Tom Hill and Point72 Asset Management’s Steve Cohen to secure the Old Master. Despite lingering doubts over the work’s authenticity, its sale was historic, surpassing previous world records for art sales of any kind.

Christie’s confirmed that ‘Salvator Mundi’ would go on display in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates vying to become a Middle Eastern capital of culture and art. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public in November 2017 with a collection of over 600 artworks including ‘Madonna and Child’ by Old Master, Giovanni Bellini.

Before it sold at auction, ‘Salvator Mundi’ was thought to have been the last work by Leonardo da Vinci in a private collection. It was consigned to Christie’s by Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for £102.6 million in 2013. “We are delighted that the work will again be on public view”, a spokesperson for Christie’s stated.

Is this the end of the story? Just a day after the New York Times report, the Wall Street Journal claimed the real buyer of ‘Salvator Mundi’ was Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and that Prince Bader was merely acting as a proxy. The saga continues.

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