The public will get to view the world’s most expensive painting in Abu Dhabi, where it will be on display and in fine art storage.
A 500-year-old work believed to be by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci is bound for the Middle East after a mystery buyer paid $450 million for what is now the world’s most expensive painting.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is reported to have purchased Salvator Mundi at a Christie’s auction in New York last month, at which frantic bidding for the painting depicting Christ as saviour of the world broke out. It will be put on display at the £1 billion Louvre Abu Dhabi, the result of a 30-year agreement between the wealthy United Arab Emirates capital and the French government, which was only inaugurated in November.
“Christie’s can confirm that the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi is acquiring Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci,” the British auction house said. “We are delighted to see that this remarkable painting will be available for public view at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.” It has emerged that bin Salman was authorised to make the enormous purchase, by telephone, on behalf of the Abu Dhabi government.
Making an Artworld Splash
The Louvre Abu Dhabi describes itself as “a new cultural beacon” and a “universal museum in the Arab World”. This, it says, “means focusing on what unites us: the stories of human creativity that transcend individual cultures or civilisations, times or places”. It’s almost certain that the lofty goals of this ambitious new and glittering space that has its own island and is surrounded by water wanted to make an impact on the world as it opened its doors to the public. Abu Dhabi definitely has the resources to do just that, attracting people from all over the world.
Salvator Mundi had for years been kept in private hands and what we see today was obscured by layers of paint, dirt and grime. After it was restored to its original glory and put up for auction, the work had a pre-sale estimate of around $100 million. It turns out that even though Abu Dhabi handed over the incredible sum of $450 million for Salvator Mundi, the authorities had been happy to go even higher.
An official letter thanked the prince for “agreeing to bid as undisclosed agent for and on behalf of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi for the artwork” — and to “bid up to a hammer price” of $500 million”. The dome-shaped Louvre Abu Dhabi will, of course, have been all too aware that another world-famous painting by da Vinci, the Mona Lisa, resides as its counterpart: the Louvre in Paris.
A Global Display and Fine Art Storage Journey
For its five-century age, Salvator Mundi gets about. Prior to landing on the auction block in New York, Christie’s decided to let the world have a glimpse of this long-lost masterpiece. It packed the ethereal painting up and sent it off on a global tour of world capitals, with some highly secure fine art storage along the way. People in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco got to gaze at the painting — 20,000 of them in all, with long queues stretching around city corners.
This all demonstrates the enduring legacy and fascination with the Italian painter and all-round genius whose interests encompassed everything from inventions to astronomy, anatomy and much more. In a way and despite the gargantuan price tag, it’s fitting that Salvator Mundi has ended up out of fine art storage and onto the walls of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. After all, it’s been dubbed the “Divine Mona Lisa”.
We’re certainly looking forward to seeing Salvator Mundi up close, and if you’re planning a visit to Abu Dhabi, or even there for a stopover, make sure you don’t miss this big artworld hit.
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