Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Saudi crown prince bought US$450 million Da Vinci

Saudi crown prince bought US$450 million Da Vinci

The painting is expected to arrive at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, a museum in the United Arab Emirates.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has undertaken an anti-corruption campaign, bought the painting using a distant relative as a "proxy", the newspaper said Thursday, citing a source in the USA government intelligence community and a Saudi art-world figure familiar with the purchase.

Bader is an unknown figure in the art collection circle.

But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's painting Salvator Mundi, which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

A spokeswoman for Christie's, the auction house that sold Salvator Mundi, said it did not comment on the identities of any buyers or sellers without their permission. In fact, Prince Bader now serves as the chairman of Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which was traditionally controlled directly by the crown prince's family. Meanwhile, Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted on Wednesday 6 December; "Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi".

Christie's let the cat out of the bag yesterday and publically said the artwork would be going to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The Renaissance-era painting is a reverential depiction of Jesus Christ, and Muslims believe that Jesus is not the savior but instead a prophet. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

Prince Bader only presented himself as a bidder on the painting at the very last minute, which, according to the Times, caused a scramble at Christie's to establish his identity and financial means-even after he put down a $100-million deposit. Buyers from the Middle East and Asia have been snapping up masterpieces to fill regional museums in China and the Middle East.

The sale more than doubled the previous record of $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso's 'The Women of Algiers (Version O)' in 2015, also in NY. Pressed for more information, Prince Bader reportedly gave a terse reply, saying he was in the real estate business and was one of the country's 5,000 princes.

Its latest sale was initiated by Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of football club AS Monaco. He sued the vendor who brokered the deal for overcharging him, and now he has just sold it for $450.3 million.

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